There are a lot of uncertainties about COVID-19, but one thing we can do is boost our immune system.
Public health have advised that immunocompromised individuals should take extra care as they are at higher risk of contracting the virus. We’ve also seen that COVID-19 mostly affects those with underlying health issues.
So far, COVID doesn’t appear to be detrimental to people who are healthy and well, so building a strong immune system is particularly important at this time — if you do catch it, your body will be better able to fight it off.
Certain Nutrients Boost Immunity
Studies (animal and human) have shown that certain nutrients are necessary for supporting immune function.
These include, essential amino acids (proteins); essential fatty acids (fats); Vitamin A, D, C, B6, B12, E; folate; zinc; copper; iron; and selenium.
There is also increasing evidence to suggest the role of gut health in supporting immune function — gut health relates to the number and diversity of gut bacteria and the integrity of the gut lining.
Deficiency in vital nutrients and poor gut health may suppress immune function, leading to more infections that are hard to budge.
Research has demonstrated that supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals can stimulate and enhance the immune system. However, high dose supplementation of some nutrients can impair health.
For this reason, we mostly look at food as the first line of treatment to enhance immunity — certain nutrients found together in food are synergetic, which bolsters bioavailability and immunity.
This article will outline some key nutrient dense foods to bolster the immune system that may help you fight off COVID-19.
This list is not exhaustive, but these are the top ones that we reckon are an absolute must. Focus on including more of these in your diet.
There will also be some tempting recipes as isolation has likely given you more time for cooking!
It's particularly rich in amino acids vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, folate, copper.
Some people find liver hard to palate. I was absolutely one of these people, but a few clever recipes changed my view — now I really love it! Here are some delicious recipes to help you eat more liver — aim for at least once a week.
Cod Liver Oil, Oily Fish & Fish Roe
They are particularly rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin D.
Although not a wholefood, cod liver oil is a potent source of nutrition. Please be aware that fish oil is not the same as cod liver oil, and certain cod liver oils are highly processed with heat treatment — these products do not contain valuable nutrients and should be avoided.
Here are a few brands that are not heat treated and are a potent source of nutrition.
- Green Pasture Products: Blue Ice High-Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver Oil
- Rosita Real Foods extra virgin cod liver oil
- Dropi Pure Icelandic Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil
- Healthspan Cod liver oil
Oily fish include sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna (only when fresh) trout, herring, anchovies and eel. It may be more difficult to source fresh fish during COVID-19 and isolation. Preserved fish like tinned sardines, smoked/peppered fish (salmon, mackerel and trout), anchovies and pickled herring or eel (without sugar).
Here are some recipes to get you eating more oily fish:
Butter and Ghee (grassfed, ideally)
They are particularly rich in fatty acids and vitamins A, D, E.
Butter and ghee contain butyric acid, which promotes gut health and immunity.
They are also a great source of saturated fat, and the lungs can’t work efficiently without saturated fat. Although there are no studies on saturated fat and COVID-19, the virus appears to have an affinity for the lungs.
Use butter and ghee for cooking, and melt over cooked vegetables and meat for an extra lick of flavour.
Hollandaise is a delicious sauce that works well with most things — grilled meats, fish, eggs and steamed vegetables. If hollandaise doesn't get you eating more butter, than I don't know what will!
Fermented foods are a potent source of probiotics that improve gut health.
Additionally, fermentation increases the level and bioavailability of vitamin C, A, B’s and iron.
You’ve likely got some extra time these days, so a great time to think about making your own fermented foods, and cultivating a healthy gut.
Here is a list of fermented foods that you can buy in the store and make at home:
- Apple cider vinegar (with mother)
- Kefir (water and milk)
- Natural yoghurt
- Pickles (without sugar)
Particularly rich in collagen, amino acids, iron, vitamin A, fatty acids, selenium and zinc.
Collagen nourishes and repairs the gut lining, which is crucial for gut health. Additional nutrients make bone broth an immune boosting cocktail.
Here’s a recipe to make your own and lots of ideas on how to use it. Also check out our instagram stories for a quick tutorial.
This is a particularly challenging time, both mentally and physically, but I urge you to try and focus on boosting your health as much as possible. This will help you overcome the pandemic of COVID-19 and any viruses you encounter in the future — viruses are no match for a health immune system!
If you're having difficulty eating healthy or feeling particularly confused and anxious about COVID-19, please feel free to reach out and book a free consultation. We'd love to offer reassurance and support during this particularly difficult time.
Take care everyone,
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I’m sure you’re curious about the science behind all this 🔬 Here are some recent medical publications about this topic:
The immune system: a target for functional foods? - NCBI." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12495459.
"Butyrate, neuroepigenetics and the gut microbiome: Can a ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26868600.
"Butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids as modulators of ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20823773.
"Current perspectives in pulmonary surfactant ... - NCBI." 8 Apr. 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18433715.
"Severe Outcomes Among Patients with ...." 18 Mar. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm
"Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease ...." https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm.