There is much that we can do to protect ourselves from seasonal viruses like regular flu and colds, and to boost our immune system in the face of the current threat of the Coronavirus. Food is information for the body and we can choose to feed ourselves foods that enhance our health and wellbeing, or foods which disrupt and burden the processes in the body. This is particularly important at this time of the year when we are more susceptible to infection and our immune system is potentially weakened.
Foods to eat more of:
Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables: the brightness of foods is an indication of their antioxidant content, and antioxidants play a vital role in our immunity. Choose berries; deeply green vegetables such as rocket, broccoli, kale; orange fruit and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, peppers; purple vegetables such as beetroot, aubergine and purple sprouting broccoli. Aim to eat a rainbow of different vegetables and fruit every day
Protein: the body breaks down protein into amino acids, and then uses these to make amongst other things, antibodies, which help us fight infection. As well as animal sources of protein (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products) there is a wide range of vegetable proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Make sure you are having some protein every time you eat
Fermented foods: a large proportion of the immune system resides in the gut, so it is key to keep your gut happy by encouraging a balanced robust microbiome (bacteria that populate the gut). You can achieve this by regularly eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir (fermented milk) or drinking kombucha (fermented tea). You will find a great supply at your local health food shop. If these foods don’t appeal to you then it would be worth taking a probiotic supplement to boost your gut flora.
Foods to eat less of:
Sugar: whilst it’s tempting to reach for sweet, sugary foods when we are feeling on the cusp of illness, it really isn’t wise. Sugar slows down the response of white blood cells, which are the body’s first line of defence when confronted with illness. So find tasty alternatives to your sweet fixes, or lower sugar versions of your sugary staples.
Alcohol: alcohol is disruptive to health for so many reasons. It has a negative impact on your gut flora, which as we have learned is a key part of the immune system. It’s a burden for the liver, which is where we produce antibodies and other key components of the immune system. It suppresses the mucosal immunity found in the respiratory system. It depletes the body of immune boosting nutrients. I could go on! So it’s a good time to take a break from alcohol or reduce your consumption
Vitamin D deficiency: this can make you susceptible to illness and infection. Ask your GP to test your Vitamin D levels, or get yourself tested privately. It costs around £25 via Thriva or Medichecks to do a home test. If you are deficient take an appropriate supplement to raise your levels
Sleep: when we are sleeping the body is repairing and recuperating, and this is key if we are to be resilient against disease and infection. Aim for 8 hours sleep a night and to be in bed before 11pm