2020, April, Health Info

Feed Our Immune System Right

Feed Our Immune System Right

Written by Ms. Soh Hui Fang
Senior Dietitian

The one word that is at the top of everyone’s mind of late is Covid-19. Our lives are greatly affected by the coronavirus and many of us have wondered whether there are any steps they can take to stay healthy. Preventive measures such as regular handwashing, social distancing and good hygiene goes a long way in reducing risk of being infected with all sorts of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.

In addition, good nutrition and healthy lifestyle influences our immunity and susceptibility to infectious diseases. Focusing on nutrient-rich foods and healthy lifestyle behaviours may help you and your family stay a step ahead of the germs.

IMMUNE-BOOSTING NUTRIENTS

The following nutrients play a role in the immune system and can be found in a variety of foods:

PROTEIN

Protein plays a role in the body’s immune system, especially for healing and recovery. Eat a variety of protein foods including seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.

VITAMIN A

Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. Get this immune-boosting vitamin from foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs or foods labelled “vitamin A fortified,” such as milk or some cereals.

VITAMIN C

Vitamin C protects you from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. Include more sources of this healthy vitamin by choosing citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, or red bell pepper, papaya, guava, strawberries, tomato juice or foods fortified with vitamin C.

VITAMIN E

Vitamin E works as an antioxidant, neutralizes free radicals and may improve immune function. Include vitamin E in your diet with fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower oil), hazelnuts and peanut butter.

ZINC

Zinc is a mineral which helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal. Zinc tends to be better absorbed from animal sources such as beef and oyster, but also is in vegetarian sources such as wheat germ, beans, nuts and tofu.

PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are not nutrients but the “good” bacteria that help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and have been linked to a wide range of health benefits. They can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and in fermented foods such as tempeh, miso and kimchi.

FOCUS ON BALANCE

To help keep your immune system healthy all year long, focus on a balanced eating plan, adequate sleep and be active.

Aim for five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits daily to get immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Good hygiene and hand-washing help prevent the spread of germs. Remember to wash produce before eating or using in recipes. Clean glasses, forks, spoons and other utensils to reduce the spread and growth of bacteria.

Maintain physical activity. Try dancing, walking around the house, stationary biking or some similar activities to move more during this time of Movement Control Order.

Get enough sleep. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to virus. Seven to nine hours is recommended each day for adults, and children need eight to 14 hours, depending on their age.

 


References:

Maggini S, Pierre A, Calder PC. Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change Over The Life Course. Nutrients. 2018 Oct; 10(10): 1531.

Bischoff SC. Gut health: a new objective in medicine? BMC Med. 2011;9:24.

Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, et al. The National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015;1(1):40–43.