The truth is, if you’re going to be exposed to a virus such as coronavirus, it doesn’t matter how many oranges you eat, you’re going to get it. However, lack of proper nutrition, for example, can weaken your ability to fight off illness and infection. The best way to protect yourself is to cultivate good habits like eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing stress.
Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as these:
Eat Immune Boosting Foods
Variety is the key to proper nutrition. Eating just one of these foods won’t be enough to help fight off the flu, even if you eat it constantly. Pay attention to recommended daily intake so that you don’t get too much of one vitamin and too little of others.
- Most citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which helps to build up your immune system. That’s because Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections. Popular citrus fruits include grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and clementines.
- Red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. One medium-sized red bell pepper provides 169% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C. They’re also a rich source of beta carotene.
- Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as being loaded with antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Just half a cup (78 grams) of cooked broccoli provides 84% of the reference daily intake (RDI) for vitamin C. It is best to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all.
- Garlic’s immune-boosting properties helps to fight infections. Garlic supplements are known to help prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold.
- Ginger helps to decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses.
- Spinach is packed with vitamin C, numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which helps our immune systems to fight infections. Like broccoli, spinach is healthiest when cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking enhances its vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released.
- Yoghurts that contain live and active cultures, like Greek yoghurt, stimulates your immune system to help fight diseases. Instead of buying flavoured or sweetened varieties, rather sweeten plain yoghurt with healthy fruits and a drizzle of honey. Yoghurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, which helps regulate the immune system, so try to select brands fortified with vitamin D.
- Vitamin E is essential for a healthy immune system. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. A good source of the vitamin is nuts, such as almonds.
- The curcumin in turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal activity. Now, studies confirm that turmeric acts as an antioxidant as well – excellent if you want to enhance your immunity.
- Polyphenols, potent plant antioxidants, are what’s believed to give green tea its immune-boosting effects. One laboratory study suggested that certain polyphenols called catechins may kill influenza viruses. Green tea contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate – a powerful antioxidant which has shown to enhance immune function. Green tea is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T-cells.
- Papaya is another fruit loaded with vitamin C. A single pawpaw contains over 200% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. This delicious tropical fruit happens to be naturally abundant in vitamins, minerals, lycopene, beta-carotene as well as other vital nutrients.
- Like papayas, kiwis are naturally full of a ton of essential nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts white blood cells to fight infection, while kiwi’s other nutrients keep the rest of your body functioning properly.
- Chicken soup helps improve symptoms of a cold and also helps protect you from getting sick in the first place. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6, which is vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells.
- Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients, including phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin B-6. They’re also packed with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin E is important in regulating and maintaining immune system function. Other foods with high amounts of vitamin E include avocados and dark leafy greens.
- Some types of shellfish are packed with zinc, which our bodies need so that our immune cells can function as intended. Varieties of shellfish that are high in zinc include crab, clams, lobster and mussels. Keep in mind that you don’t want to take more than the daily recommended amount of zinc – 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Too much zinc can have the opposite effect of inhibiting immune system function.
More Ways to Protect Yourself
Eating right is a great start, but there are other things you can do to protect you and your family from the flu, cold, and other illnesses.
- Get some sun. While it won’t prevent you from getting a virus if you’re exposed, vitamin D could reduce the severity of the illness and help make recovery easier. Sunshine is a good natural source of vitamin D, but in winter you should take a supplement. It’s also found in some foods, including fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, and in small amounts in beef liver, eggs and cheese.
- Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours each night for most people) is one of the most evidence-supported ways to stay healthy. While you’re asleep, your body uses that time to recover and repair essential functions, including your immune system. Research shows that just one night of poor sleep can reduce your immune cells by as much as 70%.
- In addition to boosting your mood, exercise also keeps your body functioning well since it reduces inflammation and supports infection-fighting cells. If you’re stuck at home or staying out of the gym, there are plenty of ways to still get a workout – bodyweight movements like burpees, lunges and push-ups can give you a full-body workout without the equipment.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Drinking too much can make you more vulnerable to illness. The occasional glass of wine in moderation is unlikely to be a threat, particularly if it has the benefits of helping you relax. But avoid overdoing it as excessive alcohol use can impair the immune system and the body’s ability to heal itself.
- Experts consistently agree that the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to wash your hands, for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, consistently and thoroughly.
- Taking a multivitamin won’t hurt but taking extremely high doses is unhelpful and can even be dangerous. Unless you have a nutritional deficiency, experts say no amount of vitamin supplements will prevent you from getting sick if you come into contact with coronavirus.
- Drinking a lot of water, at least eight glasses a day and a balanced diet is a must to build up the immune system.
- One of the most important ways to stay healthy is to try to manage stress. Good strategies include taking breaks from social media, taking a walk outside (unless you find yourself in a lock-down), curling up with a good book, meditating or practising yoga. Companion animals can be one great source of stress relief and fortunately, current evidence suggests we don’t have to worry about them getting or spread the coronavirus.
As soon as it is safe to do so, we hope to see you at the Milkwood Collection for a well-deserved holiday on the beach.