The coronavirus pandemic has many of us scared and seeking to find answers and ideas for evading this severe illness. No one can give out a sure fire formula to avoid catching this- so please run away from any site online that claims such- but we do know that buffing up our intake of key vitamins and minerals can improve our overall immune health.
Here are some of the key players in immunity:
1. Vitamin A
This antioxidant vitamin maintains the structure of the cells lining the skin, respiratory tract and gut and aids in forming a first line barrier of defense for your immune system. In addition to this important job Vitamin A helps make antibodies- antibodies work against any potential disease causing antigen (think virus, bacteria, fungi) that can cause infection. Good sources of Vitamin A include: oily fish, seeds, beef, tofu, eggs, cheese and cod liver oil. To boost your betacarotene, which then boosts your Vitamin A, try eating bright yellow, red or orange veggies like carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, yams, tomatoes, yellow or red peppers; or green veggies like kale, spinach, collards and other greens.
2. B vitamins
This family of vitamins, particularly B6, B9 and B12, are the first responders for your immune system. They help the production and action of “natural killer” cells. Natural killer cells work by causing infected cells to blow up, a process called apoptosis. They are also essential for methylation, a process that is needed for detoxification to occur, and less toxins = less inflammation therefore less risk for disease.
B6 is found in cereals, legumes, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, citrus, Brussels sprouts, nuts, fish, chicken and meat.
B9 (folate) can be found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
B12(cobalamin) is found in animal products, including eggs, meat and dairy, and also in fortified foods like cereals and soy milk (check the label).
- Vitamins C and E
Vitamins C and E are potent antioxidants that can help protect against free radicals, which if left unmanaged can cause oxidative stress and inflammation. If inflammation and oxidative stress are imbalanced disease can enter and our defenses can be lowered. Vitamin C has been proven to be effective at boosting immunity and lung health, as has Vitamin E.
Vitamin C also helps clean up by producing key immune cells like neutrophils and lymphocytes. Excellent sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, limes, berries, kiwifruit, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicum, while Vitamin E is found in nuts, green leafy vegetables, seeds and avocados.
4. Vitamin D
This fat soluble vitamin, that our bodies can make from sun exposure, helps our innate and adaptive immune system activate, as well as reduces susceptibility to infection. Good food sources include eggs, fish and some milks. Vitamin D supplements are readily found in quantities of 1000 up to 10,000 iu per gel cap or liquid and those with deficiencies may need to take these higher doses, which have been proven to help fight respiratory infections.
- Iron, zinc, selenium
These 3 key minerals help destroy invading pathogens and reduce risk for infection as well as clean up free radicals in our system.
Iron is found in meat, chicken and fish and vegetarian sources include legumes, whole grains and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. Zinc is found in oysters and other seafood, meat, chicken, dried beans and nuts. Nuts (especially Brazil nuts) are good food sources of selenium.