Can Proper Nutrition Help Our Immune System to Combat Coronavirus?
It is hard not to follow the news these days, although they are not so good. The outbreak of the new Coronavirus changed our everyday lifestyle and locked entire cities and thousands of people in-home quarantine. The mystery is how modern humans of the 21st century allowed this to happen at such a large scale. There were viruses and global pandemics before, but in times when modern medicine and science did not exist.
So even though today, we have all this technology and possibilities, we still do not know a lot about the new virus or how to stop it. That is why we have to rely on our good old immunity, hoping that all those sleepless nights and unhealthy habits did not impair its strength. Since there is not a cure or a vaccine for COVID-19, our immunity is all we have, our strongest and weakest weapon at the same time. But how to boost it and enhance its performance?
The Connection Between Nutrition and Immunity
If we catch COVID-19, our immune system is the one responsible for fighting against it. There are a lot of ongoing trials that are trying to show how exactly a healthy diet and immune function are connected, but here we are going to focus on some essential micronutrients that are well known to all of us.
Vitamin A is in charge of maintaining the structure of cells in your skin, gut, and respiratory tract. It creates a barrier that is basically our first line of defense against viruses and other infections. Foods that contain plenty of vitamin A include oily fish, tofu, cheese, egg yolks, whole grains, seeds, etc. Vitamin A can also be found in vegetables that contain beta-carotene such as carrots, which later our body converts into vitamin A. Other sources of beta-carotene include pumpkins, and other yellow and orange vegetables.
Group of B Vitamins
There are several types of vitamin B, but most important ones are B12, B6, and B19, which are responsible for that initial response once our body recognizes a virus or bacteria. These vitamins have an impact on the production of natural killer (NK) cells that are fighting with cells that are already infected. Let’s see in which foods we can find them:
- B12 is also known as cyanocobalamin, and it can be found in animal products such as meat, eggs, and of course, dairy, but it can also be found in fortified soy milk.
- B6, folate, is present in various vegetables with green leaves, seeds, nuts, legumes, and in some bread flours.
- B9 is present in fruit, cereals, nuts, green leafy vegetables, legumes, chicken, and other meat.
Vitamins E and C
While our body is fighting with an infection, it goes through the so-called oxidative stress, which usually leads to significant production of free radicals that can damage our cells and boost the inflammation. Vitamin C is also highly beneficial for our immunity and production of cells, such as lymphocytes, neutrophils, and phagocytes.
- Vitamin E can be found in vegetable oils, nuts, almonds, peanut, tomato, and green leafy vegetables like spinach.
- Vitamin C is present mainly in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, all kinds of berries, broccoli, kiwi, etc.
You have probably heard that the best way to get enough vitamin D is to expose yourself regularly to natural sunlight. But that is not the only way to help your immune cells get that much-needed vitamin D to combat infections. Fish and eggs, as well as some kinds of milk, are also a great source of vitamin D. However, if you have a deficiency of vitamin D, you might have to take supplements; make sure to consult your doctor about it.
Zinc, iron, and selenium
Besides those well-known vitamins, for the proper growth of our immune cells, we also need to take a sufficient amount of zinc, iron, and selenium. Zinc and selenium are important antioxidants, and zinc is also beneficial for our skin integrity. Many people have an iron deficiency which is why this is one of the frequently used supplements. Our bodies cannot naturally produce iron; we have to take it either through food or supplements. When it comes to our immune system, iron has several roles, which is why it is one of the essential elements for the healthy development of our immune system.
- Iron can be found in meat, chicken, fish, whole grains, and legumes.
- Zinc is mainly present in seafood, such as oysters, meat, nuts, and beans.
- Selenium is present in mushrooms, cereals, Brazilian nuts, and meat.
Coronavirus and Our Eating Habits
The outbreak of the new virus and home isolation took us to the point where, unfortunately, some shelves in supermarkets are empty. Meaning that now you might not be able to find everything you need, but just be patient and take care of your health when going out. Prevention is still the best protection, and while scientists are working hard on a new vaccine, they are also working on tests for COVID-19 antibodies, which should tell us who was exposed to the virus and is now immune to it. That would be a complete game-changer, but until then, wash your hands, and eat healthily.
Selena Thomas is a content writer who loves sharing tips on healthy lifestyles. A writer by day and a reader by night, she’s fond of writing articles that can help people in improving both physical and mental health. Also, she loves traveling and inspires people on her blogs.