Coronavirus: Boosting Your Immune System Through Food
With everything that is going on in the world right now, the public is becoming very concerned with immune boosting supplements and products. While products and supplements can help, given my profession, I feel it's important to remind everyone that diet always has been, and always will likely be one of the most important factors in determining your immunity. In many cases, a poor diet almost always leads to low immunity. Food is powerful- and considering how many times you eat each day, you are afforded DOZENS of opportunities each week to bolster your immune system in a very impactful way. In this blog I lay out some key immune boosting nutrients and how you can source more of these nutrients from the foods you eat.
Beta-Carotene: Beta-carotene is a powerful carotenoid and antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and boost immune function in the body. Beta carotene in itself is not an essential nutrient, but vitamin A is and the human body converts beta carotene into vitamin A (retinol). We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and good eye health and vision. Studies have shown that sufficient beta carotene intake helps keep the lungs healthy as we age. Excellent sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables.
HOW TO GET MORE BETA CAROTENE:
1) Try a baked sweet potato fries! These make a healthy alternative to deep fried french fries and are delicious served alongside a lettuce wrapped turkey burger.
2) Roasted carrots: toss carrots in some sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder and olive oil. Roast on parchment paper at 400 until done.
3) One simple way to add veggies to your meal is to add a salad comprised of leafy greens. Drizzle with lemon juice, a few drops of stevia, salt and pepper or try my favorite dressing which is balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, sea salt, black pepper and stevia drops!
Vitamins C and E: Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help to destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune response. Vitamin C, in particular helps increase your body's white blood cell count and white blood cells help ward off infections.Vitamin C is also an essential part of the skin’s defense system. It’s actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers. What’s more, low vitamin C levels have been linked to poor health outcomes. For example, incidences of pneumonia have been directly linked to low vitamin C intake. And on the flipside, vitamin C supplements have been shown to shorten the recovery time
Some sources of vitamin C include potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, red peppers, and fruits like strawberries or oranges.
Vitamin E, like Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps support the body's immune response. When your body is in under oxidative stress, your immune system gets weaker. Exposure to things like UV radiation, air pollution, smoking, and drinking alcohol are all known to cause oxidative stress and the release of free radicals. Researchers have shown that higher doses of vitamin E can mitigate the stress on immune cells. Good Vitamin E sources include almonds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, spinach, and broccoli.
HOW TO GET MORE VITAMIN C & E
1) Try munching on sliced red bell pepper as a snack, or dice and add it to cooked ground turkey or beef with some onion and mexican seasoning.
2) You can top your morning oatmeal with a few sliced strawberries, or peel and enjoy an orange alongside a protein shake for a morning snack.
3) Top a salad with some sliced almonds or hemp or sunflower seeds. You also stir hemp seeds into oatmeal, or try adding almond butter or sunflower butter to toast or rice cakes.
4) Spinach is best lightly steamed or cooked to reduce the amount of oxalates present, and can be a great addition to a morning egg white omelette.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Research shows vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk for viral infections, including respiratory tract infections, by reducing production of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. Increased vitamin D in the blood has been linked to prevention of other chronic diseases including tuberculosis, hepatitis, and cardiovascular disease. Low levels of vitamin D have also been associated with frequent infections. In 2009, the National Institute of Health warned that low vitamin D levels are associated with frequent colds and influenza and this study showed that Vitamin D helps reduce your chance of getting the flu.
Food sources of vitamin D include shrimp, salmon, the yolks of eggs and mushrooms
HOW TO GET MORE VITAMIN D:
1) You can add a hardboiled egg to a salad, or slice and sprinkle with salt and pepper as a protein rich snack. Or scramble one whole egg into some egg whites for an omelette.
2) Salmon is delicious roasted in the oven. Brush a salmon filet with dill, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and a spread of dijon mustard. Roast in the oven until just done and it flakes apart at the touch of a fork. Or try adding some cold smoked salmon to a salad! You can also make homemade salmon patties using canned pink salmon! Combine 4 ounces canned pink salmon (drained and patted dry) with some dill, garlic, parsley, 2 TBSP gluten free breadcrumbs, a tsp of dijon mustard and 1/2 a whole egg white. Form into a patty and cook in a pan, browning on either side!
3) Mushrooms can make a great addition to a salad, or top a steak with some mushrooms simmered in salt and pepper and olive oil! You can also use portobello mushrooms as "burger buns" for a low carb option.
Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that can help boost white blood cells, which defend against invaders. As we age, we tend to become more deficient in zinc, which has been shown to fight infections. Zinc is essential for DNA synthesis and cell proliferation, and for this reason, highly proliferating cells, like immune cells, are dependent on an adequate supply of zinc. In addition to its role in the immune system, zinc also reduces oxidative stress, plays a structural role by stabilizing proteins, regulates the expression of many genes, and drives hundreds of chemical reactions in the body.
Sources include almonds, cashews, red meat, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chickpeas and lentils.
HOW TO GET MORE ZINC
1) Dip celery, cucumber, baby carrots, or sliced grilled chicken into hummus for a great snack.
2) Add a few almonds or cashews to a meal, or top a salad or oatmeal with pumpkin seeds.
3) Try adding lentils to a soup or stew. They're very high in fiber so work with a small amount. A great recipe for lentils is here.