Written by Vicki Ma (Accredited Practising Dietitian and Sports Dietitian)
With millions of jobs at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic, looking after your health would be the furthest thing from your mind. But it is ABSOLUTELY paramount for you to not only look after your health, but also the health of your loved ones (more so than ever).
You can protect yourself from the virus on the outside by practicing proper hand hygiene and you can also build up your defences from the inside by supporting your immune system. Having a stronger immune system will not prevent you from getting coronavirus if you were exposed, but it could potentially reduce the severity of the illness and help speed up rate of recovery.
Here are some great suggestions to help support your immune system. In the meantime, stay calm, safe and look after each other. And remember, we are all in this together!
Include more plant-based foods in your diet
One of the best ways to build a stronger immune systems is to ensure you’re eating plenty of colourful fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. These are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which are importance for maintaining your health and well-being. If you find it difficult to access fresh fruit and veg, frozen ones will also do the trick.
Here are some helpful suggestions on how you can include more plant-based foods in your diet:
- Add fresh/frozen/canned (juice drained) fruit on top of your breakfast cereal or yoghurt
- Have a fruit salad or fruit skewers (kids will LOVE this) as a snack
- Make a fruit smoothie using a few different fruits (banana and blueberry is our favourite)
- Grate up some fruit or veggies to make sweet or savoury muffins (you can try grated carrot, zucchini and apple)
- Use leftover vegetables to make a big batch of soup. You can even add lentils, chickpeas or beans to increase the protein content
- Add lots of salad based vegetables to your sandwich
- Include more vegetables on your pizza topping (such as capsicum, baby spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and onion)
- Add frozen or freshly chopped vegetables in your spag bol
- Use left-over roasted veg to make a frittata (click here for the recipe)
Ensure you are getting enough Vitamin D
During these uncertain times, we may be faced with extended periods of getting minimal sunlight due to self-enforced social isolation and being indoors most of the day. It’s still important that we try to get some sunshine (where possible). This could simply mean going out into your backyard or balcony for a short period of time, so that we are not missing out on the essential Vitamin D. Research has shown Vitamin D helps support our immune system and can even help give us some degree of protection against acute respiratory infections.
There are very few foods that contain Vitamin D. These include eggs, liver, fatty fish (e.g. mackerel, herring and salmon), cheese and fortified margarine. The best way to get enough Vitamin D is via sunlight or supplementation.
Before you rush off to purchase Vitamin D supplements, it’s important to remember that these are not some sort of magic pill to help protect you from getting coronavirus (if you were exposed). It may however, help support your immune system and speed up your rate of recovery if you did get sick.
Build your gut microbiome
Gut microbiome is the trillions of bacteria, viruses and microbes that live in our stomach. These play a pivotal role in the body’s immune response to infection and appears to be a key in determining our overall health. To feed your gut microbiome and help it thrive, we need to eat a variety of prebiotic and probiotic foods.
- Probiotics – are the live cultures of good bacteria in our gut. These help change our intestinal bacteria to balance gut health. Great sources of probiotic foods include: yoghurt, kefir, kimichi, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh and miso seasoning.
- Prebiotics – are the non-digestible dietary fibres found naturally in food. These help to promote the growth of good bacteria in our large intestine. Great sources of prebiotic foods include: asparagus, beetroot, green peas, leek, lentils/chickpeas, onion, garlic, pomegranate, grapefruit, rye bread and barley.
When the gut isn’t functioning efficiently, you may miss out of absorbing all the essential nutrients required to build a strong immune system. So make sure you are eating a varied and balanced diet to help maintain the diversity and proper function of your gut microbiota.
How our Eat for Wellness Dietitians’ Can Help You!
If you would like to seek further nutrition advice on how to build your immune system, our EFW Dietitians’ can help provided you with a balance eating plan that’s individually tailored to suit your needs. We now have telehealth consults for your convenience, so you won’t need to leave your home! Please contact us for further details.