THE IMMUNE SYSTEM; CAN IT BE BOOSTED WITH FOOD?

Updated: May 20


Many people are worried about the coronavirus, SAR CoV-2 and the COVID-19 disease. Many are searching for means of protecting themselves. Many misconceptions have also emerged. The main means of preventing the disease, for now, is to avoid getting in contact with the virus and this is by social distance and good hygiene practices. People are encouraged to stay at home and only go outside for food, and health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home). If you go out, stay 1.5 to 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times and wash your hands as soon as you get home and as often as possible. Wash your hands frequently. Do not touch your eye, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. It is not helpful to meet others just for social purposes, do not meet others, even friends or family. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.


A question that is asked a dietitian many times is how do I boost my immune system?

There is a misunderstanding of how the immune system works. It is good to be in a good balance with your immune system. What we should be aiming at, is maintaining an ideal functioning immune system and what foods can support a normal functioning immune system. An immune system which is hyperactive can lead to allergies or autoimmune conditions.

What can you do then?

Eating a well-balanced diet can help support a normal working immune system. A well-balanced diet can help provide you with antioxidants, vitamin and minerals such as vitamin A, D, and E, minerals such as zinc and omega-3 fatty acids that support a normal immune system.






Follow the Eatwell Guide.

Vegetables and fruits

These should feel should make up about one-third of your intake in a day. Try vegetables of different colours as the colours are an indicator of the presence of different antioxidants, vitamins and mineral in varying amounts. Vegetables and fruits are also a good source of fibre including soluble fibre that helps to maintain a good gut microbiota that can help with your immune system working normally.

Carbohydrates

Should form about a third of your intake in a day. Include more whole carbohydrates such as whole unprocessed cereals example, corn, millet, fonio, oats, and starchy vegetables such as; yam, plantains, sweet potatoes, cassavas and cocoyam. These are a good source of energy, nutrients and fibre.

Proteins

For your proteins include beans, lentils and other legumes, these are a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals such as zinc. Try to have some fish every week at least 2-3 time a week. Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Also, include eggs and skinless chicken. A hand full of nuts a day will go a long way.

Dairy and Alternatives

Also include diary and alternatives such as fortified skimmed milk, almond milk, low-fat cheese and yoghurts. These are a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Yoghurts are also high in probiotics the is essential to main a good gut flora.

Oils and Fats

Include also a little bit of oil and fats. Choose those low in saturated fats example seed oils such as corn oil, ground oil, canola oil, and olive oils. Reduce the intake of foods that are high in sugar and salt. Are often of high calories but very little nutrients. Try to drink a lot of water at least 6-8 glasses of water a day.

What about food supplements?

Currently, there is no valuable evidence that has proven that supplements can improve our ability to fight disease. Eating a varied diet can help the body get all it needs. You can meet your daily requirement of vitamin C for instance from taking one orange which would give you about 70mg. Plus the added fibre and vitamin and minerals in it. Eating healthy food is often better than popping pills. For those who are indoors most of the time and are unable to get adequate sunlight, the can take about 10mg of vitamin D supplement from the pharmacy. There are instances where food supplements can be useful. In the case of pregnant women who have an increased need for most of the vitamin and minerals. They may be given calcium, iron and folic acid supplement to meet there needs. People of older age and some people who are unwell may also find it difficult to meet their daily requirements and be given food supplement.

Can any food protect us from COVID-19?

Even though it may be tempting to believe advertisement of foods that can boost your immune system, this is not true. Garlic and some of these advertised foods can be part of your healthy food balance, but cannot on their own protect you from a viral infection.

To protect yourself from COVID-19, follow the measures approved by the Ghana Health Service and the World Health Organisation.


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