How can I keep myself healthy? And will swallowing a pill protect me from getting sick? Many are wondering this.
Melissa Majumdar, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “There are no specific supplements that will help protect against coronavirus and anyone claiming that is being investigated by the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] and the FDA [Food and Drug Administration]”
But there’s some good news, too: There are ways to keep your immune system functioning optimally. These methods can help to keep you healthy and give you a sense of control in an uncertain time.
These include proper handwashing, being physically active, maintaining good nutrition, meditating and managing stress and getting adequate sleep.
As our immune system relies on a steady supply of nutrients to do its job, a nutritious diet is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits for a starter dose of immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,
Here are some key nutrients that play a role in immunity, and food sources of them:
Some research has suggested that higher levels of vitamin C (at least 200 milligrams) may slightly reduce the duration of cold symptoms. Vitamin C increases blood levels of antibodies and helps to differentiate white blood cells, which helps the body determine what kind of protection is needed. You can easily consume 200 milligrams of vitamin C from a combination of foods such as grapefruit, oranges, kiwi, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, broccoli, red and green peppers, cooked cabbage and cauliflower.
Good sources of beta carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, mangoes, kale, spinach, broccoli, squash and cantaloupe.
Beta carotene gets converted to vitamin A, which is essential for a strong immune system. It works by helping antibodies respond to toxins and foreign substances.
Dr. Michael Holick, an expert on Vitamin D research from Boston University who has published more than 500 papers and 18 books on Vitamin D explained that Vitamin D regulates the production of a protein that “selectively kills infectious agents, including bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin D also alters the activity and number of white blood cells, known as T 2 killer lymphocytes, which can reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses. Good food sources of vitamin D include salmon, sardines, eggs, fortified milk and plant milk products, fortified juice, fatty fish, cheese, tofu and mushrooms.
One meta-analysis revealed that zinc supplements may shorten the duration of symptoms of the common cold. Zinc helps cells in your immune system grow and differentiate. However, it concluded that “large high-quality trials are needed” before definitive recommendations can be made. Sources of zinc include chickpeas, beans, tofu, lentils, nuts, seeds, fortified cereals, wheat germ, oysters (including canned), lobster, crab, pork chop, beef, dark meat poultry and yogurt.
Probiotics and prebiotics help boost the health of the microbiome, which in turn supports our immune system, explained Majumdar.
Sources of probiotics include fermented dairy foods such as yogurt and kefir, and aged cheeses, as well as fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and sourdough bread. Sources of prebiotics include whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus.
Protein is a key building block for immune cells and antibodies and plays a crucial role in helping our immune system do its job.
Protein comes from both animal and plant-based sources and includes fish, poultry, beef, milk, yogurt, eggs and cottage cheese, as well as nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
Majumdar recommends protein-rich snacks, such as roasted chickpeas, which can be eaten in place of snacks devoid of protein, such as animal crackers, for example.