We have seen emptying of supermarket shelves in relation to food, in particular, an escalation in the stockpiling of ‘shelf stable’ items that have a long shelf life including Flour, rice, pasta, tin food, cereal, sugar, pasta sauces and pickled items.
These items in particular usually contain a high amount of sodium (salt) and sugar (carbohydrates), not to mention added preservatives and lack of vitamins and minerals (as they have been extracted in the processing). These foods are unlikely to support your immune system. Poor food choices during this time may lead to weight gain and eventuate to associated health conditions related to this.
Understandably, people are panicking regarding the future availability of food, as the demand is high. We want to help people stay in control and offer a healthy alternative to the ‘shelf stable’ option, that everyone is purchasing.
Our immune system protects us against pathogens, bacteria, viruses and parasites, so we need to be able to support it in order to keep ourselves healthy, especially during a pandemic. It’s important to not only keep well for yourself but for those with compromised immunity (eg. those living with health conditions, such as cancer or heart disease and the elderly).
Vitamins and Minerals that support immune function and foods to include in your diet during this time, and throughout your lifetime, include:
Citrus fruits are a great source of Vitamin C including Oranges, Pineapple, Grapefruit, Lemons and Lime. Vegetables that are high in Vitamin C include Red Capsicum, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Spinach, Tomatoes
People with low vitamin D levels are more susceptible to getting sick. If unsure of your vitamin D levels, it’s worth getting them checked. Where we live, in order to get adequate vitamin D from the sun in winter, you need to spend 60 minutes with bare arms and legs in the sun each day between the 11 am and 3 pm. For most people this is unrealistic, and very few people have the time to spend lounging in the sun every day. Good food sources of vitamin D include mushrooms, oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and cereals and dairy that are fortified with vitamin D.
Zinc functions as an antioxidant and prevents free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes. Foods containing zinc include seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts.
Proper functioning of the immune system relies, in part, on sufficient iron. The immune system helps us fight infection. Foods containing iron include beef, lamb, kangaroo, chicken and fish, plant-based sources include dried beans and whole grains.
Vitamin A plays a regulatory role in cellular immune responses. Dietary sources include lean meats, liver or liver pate, poultry, oily fish and egg yolks, leafy green vegetables, as well as orange, yellow and other coloured vegetables, legumes and beans and whole-grains.
Each meal contains a high source of lean protein too, which also helps maintain a strong immune system and has positive effects on satiety, keeping you fuller for longer. Protein is found in abundance in foods such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds.
The health of our guts also contributes to our immune function. We can support our gut health by including pre and probiotics in our diet. Prebiotics include legumes, vegetables, whole-grains, some fruits including dried dates and figs and nuts and seeds. Probiotics include yoghurt, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi and kombucha.
We encourage all individuals to ensure they follow the advice from the Australian government in regard to reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Speak to your health professional prior to starting/during a new diet.
Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change over the Life Course. Nutrients, 10(10), 1531. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101531
Huang, Z., Liu, Y., Qi, G., Brand, D., & Zheng, S. G. (2018). Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. Journal of clinical medicine, 7(9), 258. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm7090258
Prasad A. S. (2008). Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.), 14(5-6), 353–357. https://doi.org/10.2119/2008-00033.Prasad
Kau, A., Ahern, P., Griffin, N. et al. Human nutrition, the gut microbiome and the immune system. Nature474, 327–336 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10213