The coronavirus presents many uncertainties, and none of us can completely eliminate our risk of getting COVID-19. But one thing we can do is eat as healthily as possible.
If we do catch COVID-19, our immune system is responsible for fighting it. Research shows improving nutrition helps support optimal immune function
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A maintain the structure of the cells in the skin, respiratory tract and gut. This forms a barrier and is your body’s first line of defence. If fighting infection was like a football game, vitamin A would be your forward line.
We also need vitamin A to help make antibodies which neutralise the pathogens that cause infection. This is like assigning more of your team to target an opposition player who has the ball, to prevent them scoring.
Vitamin A is found in oily fish, egg yolks, cheese, tofu, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.
2. B vitamins
B vitamins particularly B6, B9 and B12, contribute to your body’s first response once it has recognised a pathogen.
They do this by influencing the production and activity of “Natural killer” cells. Natural killer cells work by causing infected cells to “implode”, a process called apoptosis.
At a football match, this role would be like security guards intercepting wayward spectators trying to run onto the field and disrupt play.
B6 is found in cereals, legumes, green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, chicken and meat.
B9 is abundant in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and is added to commercial bread-making flour.
B 12 is found in animal products, including eggs, meat and dairy, and also in fortified soy milk
3. Vitamins C and E
When your body is fighting an infection, it experiences what’s called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress leads to the production of free radicals which can pierce cell walls, causing the contents to leak into tissues and exacerbating inflammation.
Vitamin C and vitamin E help protect cells from oxidative stress.
Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, limes, berries, kiwifruit, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicum.
Vitamin E is found in nuts, green leafy vegetables and vegetables oils.
4. Vitamin D
Some immune cells need vitamin D to help destroy pathogens that cause infection.
Although sun exposure allows the body to produce vitamin D, food sources including eggs, fish and some milks and margarine brands may be fortified with Vitamin D
5. Iron, zinc, selenium
We need iron, zinc and selenium for immune cell growth, among other functions.
Iron helps kill pathogens. It also regulates enzyme reactions essential for immune cells to recognise and target pathogens.
Zinc helps maintain the integrity of the skin and mucous membranes. Zinc also act as an antioxidant, helping mop up some of the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Iron is found in meat, chicken and fish. 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), meat, cereals and mushrooms are good food sources of selenium.
Putting it all together
It’s true some supermarkets are out of certain products at the moment. But as much as possible, focus on eating a variety of foods within each of the basic food group to boost your intake of vitamins and minerals.
And beyond diet, there are other measures you can take to stay as healthy as possible in the face of coronavirus.
Stop smoking to improve your lung’s ability to fight infection, perform moderate excersise like brisk walking, get enough sleep, practise social distancing and wash your hands with soap regularly and most importantly stay home, stay safe.