How to maintain a strong immune system

By Christina Ross – Accredited Practising Dietitian

Have you googled “How to boost my immune system?”, read an Instagram post or Facebook article on immune health, or perhaps even purchased a supplement claiming to ‘boost’ your immune system? All of these actions are understandable given our current climate, however not all will be effective in minimising your risk of contracting the coronavirus.  

Before we delve into the topic of immunity, it is vital to keep in mind that this is a new virus and to date, there are no foods or supplements that will prevent you from contracting it. The most important and effective measures for preventing the spread of coronavirus remain practising good hand hygiene, social distancing and respiratory etiquette.  

However, it is important to maintain a state of good general health to ensure any chronic disease is well managed (if you have one) and to reduce the risk of other infections at this time. To do this, a balanced, varied and colourful diet is key as it supplies the many biochemical pathways of our immune system with the variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs to function optimally. You might like to pay attention to some of these key nutrients and their food sources which play a role in our immunity: 

  • ACE antioxidants 
    • Vitamin A, found in oily fish, egg yolk, cheese, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds; along with its precursor beta-carotene, found in yellow and orange fruit and vegetables
    • Vitamin C, found in citrus fruit, berries, kiwifruit, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicum 
    • Vitamin E, found in eggs, nuts and seeds, wholegrains 
  • Selenium, found in nuts (Brazil nuts are a particularly rich source), seafood, meat, chicken, eggs, mushrooms, garlic and wholegrains 
  • Zinc, found in meat, poultry, seafood (especially oysters), wholegrains, nuts and legumes 
  • Vitamin B12, animal products, fortified soy milk (check the ingredients list for fortification) 
  • Vitamin D, attained through sunlight exposure on the skin; food sources include oily fish, eggs, fortified milk  

 It is also wise to implement some of these other lifestyle strategies to keep your immune system balanced: 

 By following infection control practices, taking sensible actions to reduce transmission and looking after your own health to support a well-functioning immune system, we’ll be as well placed as we can be to get through the other side of this in good health.  

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