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immune system
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Anthi Naoumi

As COVID-19/Coronavirus is spreading through Europe and the world, many people seek food or supplements specialised on “boosting” the immune system.

Unfortunately, the answer is simple: there is no such food or supplement! There never was not even for flu!

Good hygiene practice remains the best means of avoiding an infection. And that was recently posted from British Dietetic Association. And until now, the European Food Safety Authority have not authorised any claim for a food or food component to be labelled as “protecting against infection”.

So what can you do to help your body?

The answer, once again, is simple: maintain a healthy and balanced diet! You don’t have to target a specific nutrient or food; you only need to reach the balance. A healthy and balanced diet is already enough to provide you all you need: vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D, as well as the copper, folate, iron, selenium and zinc.

Food sources:

As you ascertain, it’s easier to keep in mind to have a healthy balanced diet with various and balanced food choices than have all those nutrient in mind!

Component Note Where to find it
Vitamin A Known as retinol Cheese, eggs, oily fish, fortified low-fat spreads, milk and yoghurt, liver and liver products such as liver pâté
Vitamin B6 Also known as pyridoxine Pork, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), fish, bread, wholegrain cereals (such as oatmeal, wheat germ and brown rice), eggs, vegetables, soya beans, peanuts, milk, potatoes and some fortified breakfast cereals
Vitamin B12 Basically in meat products Chicken, beef, fish, dairy, eggs

Fortified foods: cereal, non-dairy milks and soy products (check the food labels to be sure)

Vitamin C Maybe the most advertised nutrient Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin), berries, broccoli
Vitamin D An upcoming star! Fatty fish (salmon, trout) as well as enriched food products (dairy, breakfast cereals, juices)
Beta – carotene Find it in natural foods with intense colour Yellow, red and green (leafy) vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers, yellow fruit, such as mango, papaya and apricots
Copper Nuts, shellfish, offal
Folate Broccoli, brussels sprouts, liver (but avoid this during pregnancy), leafy green vegetables (such as cabbage and spinach), peas, chickpeas, breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid
Iron You can better absorb it by combining animal and non-animal sources, and by having vitamin C sources in the same meal Liver (but avoid this during pregnancy), meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit (such as dried apricots), whole-grains (such as brown rice), fortified breakfast cereals, soy bean flour, most dark-green leafy vegetables – such as watercress and curly kale
Selenium Brazil nuts, fish, meat, eggs
Zinc It is better absorbed from animal products Red meat, poultry, seafood

Non animal products: wheat germ, beans, walnuts, whole grains, tofu and fortified foods

Probiotics The germs we want! Fermented foods, such as: yogurt, pickles, sour milk
Protein Dairies, eggs, meat and meat products, fish and seafood, nuts, beans
+ Avoid intense and vigorous weight loss methods, which can make your immune system weak.

Non-nutritional key points:

Furthermore, a good night sleep as well as regular exercise and low stress levels can help your immune system.

What How much Reference
Sleep 7-9 hours of a good night sleep CDC (Center of disease control)
Physical activity ≥150 minutes/week (moderate intensity) WHO (World Health Organisation)

Tips in summary:

  • Healthy balanced diet!
  • Choose food to supplements
  • Various and balanced food choices
  • Consume at least 3-5 portions of fruit and vegetables, daily
  • Have good hygiene practices for your hands and kitchen
  • Have a good night sleep
  • Be physically active
  • Keep your stress levels low

*Anthi Naoumi is a registered dietitian nutritionist at DIETTIPS Diet & Nutrition Center in Thessaloniki. 

Guest Blogger

This piece was written for GCT by a guest blogger.

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