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Food For Thought – Can nutrition ‘boost’ your immunity?

Hi Everyone! Jenn here 😊…First off, I want to say that I hope that you and your families are healthy and well and staying strong throughout these challenging times. Although it may be hard to believe in the moment,  we will come out of this so much stronger and wiser.

 

Not to be a “Debbie-downer”, but as more and more “Eating to prevent Coronavirus” posts are sprinkled throughout the media and our social media feeds, I thought a good healthy dose of reality was needed!

 

So, can nutrition really ‘boost’ your immunity??

 

The truth: There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system and eating a variety of healthy foods each day can help support immune function.

 

⚠️The myth: Short-term changes to your nutrition intake are NOT going to prevent the coronavirus. “Boosting” your immune system through diet and/or a specific food, supplement or natural health product will NOT prevent you from catching the coronavirus.

 

The reality: Our immunity is closely linked to a complex system – it is not impacted by just one thing or the simple equation of “if I do this, this will happen”. This system involves things outside of our control (like genetics and stage of life, etc.).

 

The advice: As an evidence-based practitioner, it’s my job to give advice, guidance and recommendations that are sound and grounded in evidence. I know that navigating this new environment can be a bit trickier as we rely more on pantry and frozen ingredients for preparing meals. Keeping this in mind, here are my top five (whole food) nutrition tips to support your immune system over the coming months:

 

  1. Eat a variety of veggies and fruits. Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits can all be healthy options – choose a variety of colourful ones! Eating a variety of colourful veggies and fruits will ensure that you are getting all the benefits from important nutrients (like vitamin C).

✅How? Make half your plate veggies and fruit.

 

  1. Eat protein foods. Protein is the building block for our white blood cells, which help build antibodies – our body’s defence-mechanism against pathogens (like bacteria and viruses). You don’t need to eat large amounts of protein foods to meet your nutritional needs. Try to choose protein foods that come from plants more often. They can be beneficial for your heart health. Protein foods include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, lower fat milk and lower fat dairy products.

✅How? Make a quarter of your plate protein foods.

 

  1. Eat vitamin D-rich foods and/or supplement. Vitamin D has been shown to help protect against acute respiratory tract infections. Sources of vitamin D include: fish, milk, eggs and mushrooms – HOWEVER, you would need to either eat fish every day or a whole lot of milk, eggs and mushrooms to meet the recommendations (ages 1-71 years require 600 IU and ages 71+ require 800 IU of Vitamin D). Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it’s only absorbed in the presence of fat.

✅How? If you are not getting enough vitamin D through your diet and sun-exposure (i.e. most of us Canadians in the winter/spring months!) and you are supplementing with Vitamin D in the pill form, take it with a meal that has fat in it. Vitamin D also comes in liquid drops that are usually prepared in an oil base, for ease of absorption.

 

  1. 4. Eat zinc-rich foods. Zinc has been shown to help strengthen our immunity as it is required to activate certain immune cells. Whole food sources of zinc include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry, fish, shellfish, lower fat dairy products (e.g. yogurt).

✅How? Make a quarter of your plate protein foods (see Tip #2)

 

  1. Drink water. Drinking water is important for your health and a great way to quench your thirst without added calories.

✅How? Make water your drink of choice with and in-between meals.

 

If you have any questions or need help navigating these uncertain times, please feel free to reach out by emailing me at jenn@sparknutritionandhealth.ca

Stay healthy everyone 😊

Jenn Giurgevich is a Registered Dietitian and former contract Professor at Brescia University College with a wealth of nutrition knowledge. Over the last 10+ years, Jenn has paired her love for nutrition and health with her undeniable love for fitness, working as both a personal trainer and fitness instructor.

 

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