To date, there is no cure or vaccine yet for the COVID-19 coronavirus that has paralyzed the world since the end of 2019. However, there is a simple yet effective way to keep this potentially fatal virus at bay: by boosting your immune system, which can be done through good health, lifestyle and dietary choices.
If you are following a strictly plant-based diet, the “dietary” part should be easy since many of the fruits and vegetables you eat are packed with essential immunity-boosting vitamins and minerals. Together with proper personal hygiene, these expert-recommended nutrition tips can keep vegans like you safe from the coronavirus pandemic:
Eat Leafy Greens
One time-tested nutritional strategy is sure to help you avoid getting hit by the virus: eating leafy green vegetables.
Rich in important vitamins and minerals, broccoli is a source of antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals. Free radicals themselves can cause oxidative stress, which is linked to heart disease, certain cancers and even respiratory diseases.
Among the vitamins present in broccoli is vitamin C, which can boost your immune system.
“Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table,” Katherine Marengo, registered dietitian, said. She added broccoli is best eaten raw or lightly cooked.
Spinach is “packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems,” as per Marengo. Like broccoli, she said, spinach is rich in vitamin C and is best eaten raw.
Other examples of leafy vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables include kale, peas, asparagus and sprouts.
Health experts say that B vitamins are important for your immune system. B6, B9 and B12, in particular, “contribute to your body’s first response once it has recognized a pathogen,” according to Clare Collins, nutrition and dietetics professor at the University of Newcastle in the U.K. These vitamins, she wrote for The Conversation, influence the production and activity of natural killer cells, which cause apoptosis or “cell death,” and are akin to “security guards intercepting wayward spectators trying to run onto the (soccer) field (during a soccer match) and disrupt play.”
B6 and B9 are found in leafy vegetables, nuts and legumes. B6 is also found in fortified cereals, while B9 is found in seeds and commercial bread flour. Vegan B12 sources include supplements, mushrooms and fortified non-dairy milk.
Fruits For Vitamin C
Green vegetables are not the only vitamin C-rich sources. This immunity-boosting vitamin is also found in fruits such as citrus fruits (oranges, lemons), avocados and tomatoes. Vitamin C, per Collins, is the cleaner of the soccer grounds after a game.
Together with vitamin E, found in nuts and leafy vegetables, vitamin C helps protect your cells from inflammation-causing oxidative stress. Collins noted that it produces specialized cells that improve immune response, which include neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes.
Eat Nuts And Berries
Nuts and berries are great (and nutritious) snack options that you can munch on while staying cooped up at home.
Like all nuts, Brazil nuts are rich in fiber and protein, but is packed with inflammation-reducing, immunity-boosting selenium.
Rich in vitamin C, berries contain antioxidants and soluble fiber. “Soluble fiber changes the personality of immune cells—they go from being pro-inflammatory, angry cells to anti-inflammatory, healing cells that help us recover faster from infection,” Gregory Freund, professor at the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine, said.
Eat Food Rich In Vitamin D
Needed by some immune cells to kill infection-causing pathogens, vitamin D is normally gained through sunlight, which practicing vegans might get little of over the next few weeks as a result of the coronavirus quarantine.
Instead, you can munch on some mushrooms such as the portobello, button and shiitake varieties. “Mushrooms are thought to make vitamin D from a molecule called provitamin D2 with the help of the sun,” Chirag Shah, co-founder of Accesa Labs that offers vitamin D testing, said.
Vitamin D is also found in fortified non-dairy milk, tofu, orange juice and supplements.
Used for centuries as both a food ingredient and medicine, garlic does not just add flavor to any dish, it is healthy too.
Garlic contains a compound called alliin that converts into allicin when you crush or chew it. Allicin itself contains sulfur that gives this bulbous vegetable its distinctive taste and smell.
“Allicin is unstable, so it quickly converts to other sulfur-containing compounds thought to give garlic its medicinal properties,” Helen West, registered dietitian, said via Healthline. “These compounds have been shown to boost the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses, such as the viruses that cause the common cold or flu.”
Legumes And Beans
Legumes and beans work extremely well in pastas, chillis, shepherd’s pie and stews.
Legumes such as lentils and chickpeas contain iron, which kills pathogens by increasing the number of free radicals, according to Collins. Iron, she said, also “regulates enzyme reactions essential for immune cells to recognize and target pathogens.” Legumes also contain B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. The latter, Collins noted, helps maintain skin integrity and mucous membranes.
On the other hand, beans such as pinto, kidney and black beans are rich in protein. “Protein is vital to build and repair body tissue and fight viral and bacterial infections. Immune system powerhouses such as antibodies and immune system cells rely on protein,” Carol DeSarkissian, physician, wrote on WebMD.