Can I boost my immune system with what I eat?
Simply put, you cannot “boost” your immune system through diet, and no specific food or supplement will prevent you catching COVID-19/Coronavirus. Good hygiene practice remains the best means of avoiding infection.
There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system and therefore I would encourage maintaining a health balanced diet in order to support immune function (include copper, folate, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D).
The Eatwell Guide is made up of five food groups – fruit and vegetables; potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates; beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins; dairy and alternatives; and oil and spreads. If you choose a variety of foods from the groups you can easily achieve this healthy balance.
Foods high in fat, salt and sugars are not needed in the diet, so if you do choose to include them then try to have them less often and in smaller amounts.
- Fruit and vegetables each day and remember, fresh, frozen, dried and canned all count.
- Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates – include starchy foods such as chapattis, breakfast cereals, noodles and oats as part of your meals/ snacks. Aim to include one food from this group at each meal time and eat regularly. Try and opt for wholegrains where possible.
- Variety – choose a variety of different types and colours of fruit and vegetables. As well as providing vitamins, minerals and fibre, the natural colours and flavours of plants add powerful anti-oxidants to our diet.
- Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins – choose lean meat or remove excess fat and remove the skin from chicken. Avoid frying where possible. Try to include two portions of fish each week, one of which should be an oily fish (darker skinned), for example: mackerel, salmon, sardines.
- Dairy and alternatives – with dairy foods providing the richest and best absorbed source of dietary calcium, try for three portions a day to meet most calcium needs.
Nutrients that are needed for a strong immune system
• Vitamin C — citrus fruit (lemons, oranges, grapefruit), kiwi, red pepper, broccoli
• Zinc — meat, fish, nuts and seeds, legumes, eggs, dairy
• Vitamin D — fatty fish, sardines, egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified foods (milk & dairy)
• Beta-carotene (converts to vitamin A) — carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes
• Folate — broccoli, spinach, breakfast cereals, frozen peas
• Iron – breakfast cereal, red meat, dried fruit
During this time of social distancing people are shopping for food that can last weeks. Below are suggestions on healthier non-perishable items, or food that can be frozen.
• Pasta tomato sauces and pesto
• Tinned tuna, salmon and sardines
• Frozen fruits and vegetables
• Dried fruit e.g. raisins, apricots
• Canned and dried beans and lentils
• Canned vegetables and fruits and canned soups
• Rice, pasta, quinoa
• Nuts and seeds
• Nut and seed butter
• Breakfast cereals e.g Branflakes, Ready Brek, Cheerios
• Bread, bagels, pitta bread, wraps, chapatti
• Yogurt, eggs, cheese, cream cheese
Ready Brek with milk
Cheerios with milk
toast with eggs
sandwiches/wraps/bagel – cheese, chicken, tuna, cream cheese and grated carrot
left-overs from previous nights dinner
pasta with tomato/vegetable sauce – add red lentils if you have no chicken. Sprinkle with grated cheese
egg fried rice with frozen vegetables
rice and curry
jacket potato with baked beans and cheese