【COVID-19】Top 20 Foods & Fruits That Can Boost Your Immunity
In the wake of the dreaded COVID-19, staying healthy has become one of the top concerns around the world. Apart from the usual advice – wash your hands frequently, keep your surroundings clean, mask up if you are unwell, see a doctor and do not doctor hop – eating right is another way to stay healthy.
In times like these, everyone wants to remain healthy. One way to do so is to eat healthily. Scientists have long known that those who are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases.
As you prepare or pick your meals during this season, pick foods or fruits that will keep you in the pink. These are the top 10 immunity boosting foods & fruits that are known to have great health benefits.
Ginger features prominently in Asian diets and a good thing, too, for people on this side of the world since ginger has several beneficial health properties. For one, it is anti-viral. According to a study published in a November 2012 issue of Journal of Ethnopharmacology, fresh ginger can prevent the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) from attaching to and infecting upper respiratory tract cells. Ginger, apparently, stimulates the respiratory cells to secrete an anti-viral protein called interferon-beta. The root also inhibits mucous production and helps to clear congestion.
Ginger is also antibacterial. According to a March 2011 issue of Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials, ginger with equal portions of garlic and lime seemed to offer antibacterial benefits against some drug-resistant strains of the E. coli bacteria.
Ginger contains antioxidant compounds as well. Antioxidants are substances that prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals. Left unchecked, the damage leads to illness and ageing.
The antioxidant compounds also give ginger anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. It is that anti-inflammatory power that makes ginger so effective at combating the common cold and flus. Since inflammation can affect our immune response, ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties also mean that it can boost our immunity.
Berries are wonderful sources of Vitamin C which is necessary for boosting antibody production and, therefore, improving immunity.
Berries are also excellent sources of flavonoids. Dark berries like blackberries, blueberries and strawberries are particularly beneficial because they contain more flavonoids. In fact, the very substance – anthocyanin - that gives blueberries and acai berries their distinct colour is a type of flavonoid.
Flavonoids are especially good for the body because, as a powerful antioxidant, they can prevent or slow down damage to our cells. This, in turn, gives flavonoids their anti-inflammatory and immunity-building capabilities.
In a 2016 study, flavonoids were found to play an essential role in protecting the respiratory tract. People who ate foods rich in flavonoids were 33% less likely to get upper respiratory tract infections or catch common colds.
Other berries rich in flavonoids include cranberries and elderberries. Elderberries, in particular, can reduce swelling in mucus membranes. That is why elderberry syrup is often consumed as a remedy for colds, flus and bacterial sinus infections.
This spice is yet another Asian staple with wonderful health benefits. Turmeric contains curcumin a potent anti-inflammatory compound which gives the spice its rich orange-yellow colour.
In addition, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology, curcumin activates the production of T-cells which are the main cells in our immune system that protect us from diseases.
It is not without reason that pomegranates are call the fruit of health. Rich in Vitamin C, pomegranates also contain punicalagins which is a powerful antioxidant, so powerful that they have three times more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. As a result of this, pomegranates also have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties that make them effective for fighting the flu and other viruses.
Yoghurts with live and active cultures like Greek yoghurt are good for our health because these cultures may stimulate our immune system to help fight pathogens that make us sick. Yoghurts also contain Vitamin D which helps regulate the immune system. While there is no definitive proof that Vitamin D deficiency causes disease, studies do show that people with higher levels of Vitamin D have a lower risk of disease.
Adults need 65 to 90 milligrams (mg) of Vitamin C a day. One orange alone can give as much as 60mg of Vitamin C. A lemon yields 53mg of Vitamin C while two grapefruits would put you well past your daily required dose of the ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C is needed to support our body’s immune system. It encourages the production of white blood cells which guards the body against infections. Vitamin C also makes sure those white blood cells function effectively and protects them from being damaged by free radicals.
In a study conducted by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, Vitamin C was found to be helpful in preventing the common cold for people exposed to cold weather. It was found to be able to even shorten the duration and reduce the severity of the cold. So important is Vitamin C to our health that those who suffer from pneumonia tend to have lover levels of Vitamin C and when Vitamin C supplements are given to them, they recover faster.
In addition, citrus fruits have plenty of plant compounds including more than 60 types of flavonoids, carotenoids and essential oils. These have health benefits such an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Salmon is good for our health because it is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA - which are nutrients our bodies need but cannot produce on their own. EPA and DHA have, among many health benefits, anti-inflammatory properties. Experts believe that inflammation is the root cause of several chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Eating salmon appears to reduce markers of inflammation in people who are at risk of these diseases.
Salmon also contains zinc which is a trace element necessary for a healthy immune system. Zinc regulates immune functions by activating T cells. These cells protect the body by attacking pathogens as well as cancer cells.
Zinc also reduces the severity and duration of the common cold. In one study, zinc was found to prevent colds. Children who took zinc supplements daily for seven months were less likely to catch a cold.
Salmon is rich in Vitamin Bs, too. Vitamin B6 is vital for, among other things, healthy cell function and immune response which helps the body fight off infection.
Finally, salmon has astaxanthin. The carotenoid pigment is what gives the fish their pink hue. Astaxanthin is an antioxidant.
This natural thirst-quencher contains glutathione, dubbed the “mother of all antioxidants”. It also contains more lycopene – another antioxidant linked to decreased risks of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye disorders – than any other fresh fruit or vegetable.
Apart from other nutrients like Vitamin A and potassium, watermelons contain Vitamin B6, too. This vitamin helps the body fight off infection and is necessary for healthy cell function. Since the body cannot produce Vitamin B6 on its own, we have to ensure that we eat food with the vitamin to enjoy its benefits.
All chocolates have theobromine, a type of antioxidant. But dark chocolate has the most. An ounce of milk chocolate contains 60 milligrams of theobromine but the same amount of dark chocolate contains more than three times that – 200 milligrams.
Theobromine has been proven to alleviate coughs. A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that theobromine can help suppress cough symptoms for people with bronchitis.
Theobromine benefits the respiratory system in other ways. It can widen airways and relax muscle tissues in the lungs. This increases airflow to the lungs making theobromine effective not only as a cough suppressant but as a way to manage asthma and other respiratory conditions.
As an antioxidant, theobromine is also a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Kiwi Fruit & Guava
When it comes to fruits with plenty of Vitamin C, oranges get all the hype. In truth, there are many more fruits that are richer in Vitamin C than oranges. Gram for gram, kiwi fruits contain over 60% more Vitamin C than oranges. Trumping them all is the Asian fruit – the guava. One cup of guava contains 377mg of Vitamin C. One cup of orange is less than a third that at 96mg while one cup of kiwi fruit gives 167mg of Vitamin C.
We all know vegetables are good for us. Some vegetables, more than others, can help our immune system. Spinach, for example, is packed with Vitamin C, numerous antioxidants and beta carotene. Broccoli has Vitamins A, C and E plus many antioxidants. Red bell peppers are similarly nutritious. They have twice as much Vitamin C as citrus fruits, ounce for ounce, as well as beta carotene.
Vitamin C supports our body’s immune system, encouraging the production of white blood cells which guard the body against infections. Vitamin C also ensures white blood cells function effectively and protects them from being damaged by free radicals.
In a study conducted by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, Vitamin C was found to be helpful in not just preventing colds but also shortening their duration and reducing their severity. Vitamin C is so effective that when given to those with pneumonia, they recover faster.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, making it a super immune booster. It supports healthy tissue and mucus membranes, keeping them strong. It is also involved in the production and function of white blood cells that protect the body against infections.
Vitamin E is another antioxidant. It can help preserve muscles and red blood cells. It can boost response to vaccines as well.
Beta carotene increases the number of immune cells and their activity.
Apricot, Papaya, Mango
Fruits like apricot, papaya and mango are worth putting on your must-eat list as well. They contain carotenoids which is a class of pigments that gives them their yellowish-orange hue. Apart from giving fruits their vibrant stain, carotenoids, when consumed, converts to Vitamin A which helps regulate the immune system. Carotenoids are also antioxidants in their own right.
Green and black tea are full of flavonoids which are antioxidants. What makes green tea better is the fact that the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) it contains is not destroyed when it is processed unlike black tea. EGCG is an antioxidant that enhances immune function. Green tea is also a source of L-theanine, an amino acid, that may help in the production of T-cells.
It is a good thing that avocadoes are in vogue, brought to almost cult status by chi-chi cafés that introduced the world to avocado toast. The fruit is rich in Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, and a good source of glutathione.
Garlic has heavy concentrations of sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin. It is the allicin that gives garlic its distinct aroma. The allicin, along with the antioxidants in garlic, helps it fight infections and support the immune system.
A University of Florida study found that taking aged garlic reduced the severity of cold and flu symptoms, and made these symptoms go away much faster. Another study in Mexico found that garlic reduced the frequency of colds in adults.
A staple in burgers, sandwiches and salads, people often forget that the tomato is not a vegetable but a fruit. Tomatoes provide the triune of major antioxidant vitamins: beta-carotene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
Beta-carotene has been shown to increase the number of immune cells and their activity. In a German study, Vitamin C was shown to be vital to the strength of the body’s phagocytes and t-cells which are major components of the immune system. The study noted that a Vitamin C deficiency can weaken the immune system and lower resistance to certain pathogens that can lead to illness. Vitamin E is necessary for healthy body function, especially in modulating a host of immune functions.
Nuts, especially almonds, are supercharged with vitamins, especially Vitamin E. Half a cup – 46 whole almonds – is all you need to meet your recommended daily Vitamin E requirement.
An apple a day may truly keep the doctor away. Apples are a good source of soluble fibre and a University of Illinois study found that soluble fibre can strengthen the immune system. They do so by increasing the production of an inflammatory protein called interleukin-4. In so doing, they change the immune cells, turning pro-inflammatory cells into anti-inflammatory ones that help us recover faster from infection.
Miso is very much a part of Japanese cuisine. The fermented soybean paste is rich in probiotics that aid gastrointestinal health. About 70% of the immune system lies in the gut. So, a healthy, balanced gut makes for a strong immune system. In addition, miso is made from soy which contains isoflavone antioxidants.
Coconuts contain lauric acid and caprylic acid. In fact, a coconut is 50% lauric acid. These fatty acids have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties that are excellent for fighting off a variety of pathogens, viruses and infections.