Simply put, there is no specific food or supplement that will prevent you from contracting COVID-19. Good hygiene practice remains the best means of avoiding infection. Wash your hands, maintain social distancing and wear a mask if you can.
Although there is no miracle food that will radically heighten your defences overnight, there are things you can do to help protect your immune cells, potentially lowering your susceptibility to infection.
Looking after your physical and mental health appears to be the best way to improve immunity, and the better your immune system, the better your whole body functions.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Having a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best ways to improve your health.
According to the Association for British Dietitians , it is important to focus on whole foods and eat foods from all the key food groups. Avoid foods high in salt, fat and sugar as well as processed foods.
There are certain foods that are thought to be particularly good for boosting the immune system, if you would like to find out more head over to the BMI website where they have written extensively on the subject.
Eat more Immune Boosting Nutrients
Certain nutrients are essential for our immune systems to function well. According to The British Heart Foundation, these essential nutrients include: vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D as well as copper, folate, iron, selenium and zinc.
They further explain that vitamin C, in particular, is a powerful antioxidant that neutralises free radicals that can be harmful to the body. Good sources of vitamin C include: citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, bell peppers, strawberries and many more fruits and vegetables.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should to be taking supplements, in fact, some vitamin supplements can be damaging if taken in large quantities.
The only exception seems to be vitamin D, which is produced when we are exposed to sunlight. To make sure that we’re getting enough year-round the NHS advise taking a daily 10-microgram supplement in autumn and winter, especially if you spend most of your time indoors.
According to the British Nutrition foundation, the follow foods are rich sources of the before mentioned essential nutrients that help us fight in infection.
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body. Good sources can be found in spinach, broccoli, almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts.
- Vitamin B6 is vital for the immune system to function well and can be found in bananas, lean poultry, tuna and chickpeas.
- Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are often great sources of vitamin A, another powerful antioxidant. High levels can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash.
- Folate, or folic acid, is essential for generating new cells. Deficiency can result in a weakened immune system. Good sources include: Beans, peas, fortified cereals and leafy vegetables.
- Iron is thought to be essential for the protection of our immune system as it helps your carry oxygen white blood cells that are central to fighting infections. Get yours from lean poultry or in dark, leafy vegetables.
- Selenium was included in the list of essential immune system nutrients because it is thought to play a crucial role in the functioning of our body’s defences as it protects the body from damage caused by free radicals. Find it in garlic, broccoli, sardines, tuna and mushrooms, among many other foods.
- Lastly, zinc is thought to help control inflammation and good sources include oysters, crabs, poultry, beans and chickpeas.
Be More Active
According to the NHS, physical activity can give your immune system a real boost, as well as helping you sleep better and reduce stress, both of which can impact immune function.
Regular moderate exercise has been shown to improve immune response, however overly intensive exercise can have the opposite effect.
Prof Geraint Florida-James is the research lead for sport, health and exercise sciences at Napier University in Edinburgh and he explains that: “As humans, we were never designed to be sedentary, and study, after study, has shown that being active is good for you, and that includes your immune system. We will all see declines in physical abilities as we age, and the immune system is no different. What we are trying to do is slow that decline as much as possible.” He further emphasises that in order to get the most benefits from the activity itself in terms of strengthening the immune system there needs to be a balance of activity (intensity/duration/frequency) and rest/recovery.
There is mounting evidence indicating that stress can really take its toll on the immune system if it takes place over a long period of time.
According to a recent study, there appears to be a direct link between chronic stress-related conditions and autoimmune diseases (click HERE to view the study).
Short term stress is perfectly normal every now and again, however, if you find yourself suffering from stress on a regular basis take a look at our Stress Less page which is full of great stress-busting resources and tips.
According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep can play an important role in strengthening the immune system. During sleep your immune system generates proteins called cytokines, which fight infection, meaning that losing out on sleep could seriously impact your immune system.
As a general guide, most adults need about eight hours of good quality sleep a night. If you often find yourself feeling tired during the day, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep.
For some great sleep tips, check out our earlier blog titled: How to sleep Better
Good Hygiene Practices
While the advice contained in this blog can certainly help to ensure your immune system is working at its best, it is still better to stop infections from entering the body to start with.
The most important way to reduce the spread of infections is hand washing. It is recommended to wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before food preparation or eating, after going to the toilet, touching public surfaces and after sneezing and coughing. For more information on correct handwashing techniques click HERE.
Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the coronavirus. If you’ve touched something outside of your home and haven’t washed your hands since, don’t touch your face.