Diet and immune health

Supporting the body’s immune system

Credit: Alliance for Natural Health

By Lloyd Gee, Naturopath and Herbalist

We are all being told how to shield ourselves and others from COVID-19 which is of course good advice to stop the spread of the virus. But I believe it is also important to keep our immune systems in tip-top condition.

48% of all deaths in the borough between 29th February and 8th May involved COVID-19.

The immune system is the body’s natural defence against harmful viruses and other pathogens, so having an immune enhancing diet is a great way to start.

A healthy diet does not need to be expensive but takes a little bit of effort.

Fresh vegetables should make up a large proportion of what you eat. They contain most of the nutrients that your body and immune system need, and are also great for a healthy gut as they are high in fibre. They improve your circulation and most help reduce inflammation.

A good range of vegetables should include a whole variety of colours on the plate (red, orange, yellow, green, white/brown and blue/ purple) – each bringing their own health benefits. Carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spring greens, red onions, broccoli, peas, and salads are all good examples. Add in some spices like turmeric and ginger. Raw garlic is a good addition to salads and cold dishes as it is believed to fight infections and supports a healthy cardiovascular system.

Many fats are not good for us, but some are essential. So rather than a fat free diet, go for healthy oils. My favourite is extra-virgin olive oil which I use for cooking as well as drizzling on salads and vegetables. Other good oils are in avocados and especially in oily fish. I also enjoy some butter which is healthy in moderation.

Dark berries do not only taste fantastic, but they are packed full of nutrients and antioxidants that will help your immune system, blood vessels, liver and brain.

Most fruits are good, but don’t have too many especially in juice form as this may spike your blood sugar. Too many foods that are high in sugar, or
those that quickly convert to sugar like white bread and most junk food, can be damaging to health, increasing the risk of diabetes and other illness.

Starchy foods like rice, bread, chips and pasta form a very large part of most people’s diets. I promote reducing this to say a quarter of your plate or even less. Choose whole grains where possible, add good quality protein to fill up another quarter and simply fill the rest of your plate with vegetables. This is also a great way towards a healthy weight.

One vitamin that is difficult to get entirely from your diet is vitamin D and this is essential to an effective immune system. Getting out in the sun is the best as vitamin D is produced in the skin through direct sunlight. So, while social distancing – soak up the sunshine. Otherwise it is a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement.

Healthy eating may not stop you getting coronavirus – hand-washing and social distancing are the most important preventative measures. But, with such a pandemic I certainly want my immune system to be working as best as it can.

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