One of the most important questions on everyone’s mind nowadays is how to build immunity so that you have a lower chance of catching a dangerous illness like the coronavirus disease caused by COVID-19.
But, even if we were not facing a global pandemic, it’s good to know how to improve your immune system, especially in older people, as a low immune system can also cause diseases like cancer.
Besides the usual advice not to smoke, eat a healthy plant-based diet, maintain a healthy weight, do regular exercise, get enough sleep, avoid stress and moderate your alcohol intake, it is also good to take serious note of recommendations, like washing hands frequently.
Your diet plays a significant role in boosting immunity as a healthy diet provides your immune system with the nutrients it requires to produce the cells responsible for fighting infection.
If you’re facing an outbreak in your area, you can increase your intake of these immune boosting foods and vitamins to support your immune system in fighting off illness.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an important vitamin because it fights oxidative damage and may be essential in helping the immune system produce white blood cells that are crucial for fighting infection.
Currently, the recommended DV for vitamin C for adults and children aged 4 and above is 90 mg. This is the minimum you require and you can increase your dosage with the recommendation of your doctor. Because the human body cannot produce Vitamin C on its own, we need to get enough of it in our diet to stay healthy. As Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat, it’s best to consume it in foods that are taken raw.
One of the best sources of Vitamin C is citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit. Other foods that are high in Vitamin C are amla (Indian gooseberry), papaya, spinach, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, and red and green capsicum (bell peppers).You can increase your intake of this essential vitamin simply by starting your day with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of honey in warm water. If you want to take a Vitamin C supplement, talk to your doctor first as consuming too much of it can cause adverse side effects.
Increasing your intake of Vitamin B-6 can boost immunity as it is essential for many of the biochemical reactions in the immune system.
Foods rich in Vitamin B-6 include chicken, salmon, tuna, potatoes, green vegetables and chickpeas. So hummus is a good food to have if you want to increase your Vitamin B-6 intake.
Although it is not hard to get your daily Vitamin B-6 requirements from your diet, you can ask your doctor for a safe multi-vitamin supplement that will ensure you and your family get all your requirements of this essential vitamin.
In addition to its importance in calcium regulation and bone health, Vitamin D can boost immune response. A deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection.
Vitamin D can boost your body’s natural defenses against diseases. You can get it from food and your body can synthesise it with help from the sun’s rays.But thanks to our modern lifestyles, most people are deficient in this essential vitamin as it is not abundant in our diet. Also most of us don’t get enough sun to synthesise sufficient amounts of it since many of use sunscreen.
4000 IU is the maximum amount of Vitamin D that is safe to consume daily, as it is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and there are dangers to consuming too much of it.The best way to ensure that you’re getting a good supply of Vitamin D is to ask your doctor for a supplement. Older adults especially need a vitamin D supplement as they don’t produce vitamin D from the sun as efficiently as young people.
Vitamin E is another essential immune-boosting vitamin. Healthy sources of Vitamin E in the diet include nuts like almonds which also have healthy fats that allow the body to absorb it better.
To get nearly 100% of the recommended Daily Value of Vitamin E (22.4 IU) eat half a cup of whole, shelled almonds a day. Another good dietary source of Vitamin E is sunflower seeds.Avoid Vitamin E supplements as this fat-soluble vitamin may be unsafe in high doses, especially if you have heart disease or diabetes.
While the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in fighting inflammation have been known for a long time, it is less well known that they can also boost immunity by improving the functioning of B-cells, which are essential for producing antibodies that fight pathogens like viruses.
Although both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are important to health, our diets contain too much omega-6, which is found in the vegetable oils we use in our everyday cooking. Too much omega-6 can increase blood pressure and cause blood clots leading to heart attack and stroke.
Although you can get Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil, flax seeds, green leafy vegetables, and nuts like walnuts, our modern diets don’t contain the necessary amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, that we need to sustain our daily requirements.If you want to boost your immunity and decrease inflammation, it is wise to take an omega-3 supplement. If you’re a vegetarian and cannot consume fish oil supplements, you can take flax seed oil supplements instead.
Ginger is known to decrease inflammation, so having ginger tea can be a very useful way to help a sore throat. Add a dash of lemon and honey and you have an immune-boosting brew that tastes great too.
Our very own spice, turmeric or haldi, has anti-inflammatory and health-boosting qualities. It’s also known to prevent cancer, so there’s no doubt you should increase its intake to boost your overall health, decrease inflammation and increase immunity as well.
Yes, it may not necessarily be the most palatable tea, but green tea is a great immune-booster because it contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to enhance immune function.
To make it more palatable and increase its immune-boosting properties, add a dash of lemon and honey.
This brings us to another immune-boosting food that has been used to treat coughs and colds since time immemorial. Known as nature’s sweet nectar and revered by our grandmothers, honey has antiseptic properties inhibit the growth of some bacteria.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce swelling and pain, which is why has been used to keep external wounds free from infection. It also has high levels of antioxidants which help boost immunity.That’s why honey is one of the must-have natural foods you should store in your kitchen pantry at all times.
Garlic has long been known to boost the immune system and it is thought to do so because it is rich in sulfur-containing compounds like allicin. The best way to consume garlic is raw or slightly cooked in foods.Unless you belong to a community that doesn’t eat garlic normally, you should definitely increase your intake of this food in times of an outbreak.
These essential immune-boosting vitamins and foods will help you keep your immune system strong in case of an outbreak. Ensure you and your family gets adequate amounts of them so you can fight off illness better.