Protect against COVID-19 with food.
Research by Jessica Kusuma, Nutrition Graduate at YoRipe
Importance of a BALANCED MEAL:
Having a balanced meal that contains all the essential food groups is important to help maintain your immune system and lowers your risk of getting sick as you’d be able to consume the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs.
1. Carbohydrates (Grains):
- Carbohydrate is needed to provide your body with energy. Eating carbs will help provide an energy source. Without sufficient carb intake, this will force your body to utilize other nutrients for fuel, such as protein. Which can hinder your body’s ability to repair and rebuild body tissue and fight viral and bacterial infections due to your weakened state.
- It’s suggested to consume 250-400 grams (4-6 serves) of grains each day. It is also recommended to go for non-refined and wholegrain variants such as brown rice or wholegrain pasta as the unprocessed wholegrain can provide other nutrients such as protein, fiber, B vitamins and antioxidants which can help maintain your immune system.
Example of serves of grain:
- ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley or quinoa 1 serve
- 1 cup oatmeal = 2 serves
- 1 slice of bread = 1 serve
- Vegetables provide a variety of vitamins and nutrients for your body such as Vit A, B, C, E, potassium, fiber, folate. The more colourful the variety of vegetables you eat, the more types of nutrients you can consume. Vitamins such as A, B6, C, E can help maintain your body and immune system by helping stimulate formation of antibodies, improve & boost immune function, protect against infections.
- It’s suggested to consume about at least 375-450g of veggies a day (5-6 serves).
Example of 1 serve of veggies (1 serve = about 75g):
- 1 cup green raw leafy vegetables
- ½ cup sweet corn
- 1 medium tomato
- ½ medium potato or other starchy veg (sweet potato, taro, cassava)
- Like vegetables, they provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for your body to maintain your immune system. The more variety of fruits you eat the better.
- It’s suggested that you consume 200-300g of fruit per day (2 servings)
TIP: try to avoid drinking too much fruit juices due to its sugar content
Example of 1 serve of fruit (1 serve = about 150g):
- 1 medium apple, banana, orange OR pear
- 2 small apricots, kiwi, OR plums
- 125ml fruit juice (no added sugar)
- 30g dried fruit
4. Protein (lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts/legumes)
- Protein is crucial to help your body repair tissue, muscle and fight viral and bacterial infections.
- It’s better to consume more fish, tofu, nuts and legumes for protein sources. Lean red meat is also ok.
- LIMIT or AVOID fatty cuts of meat and processed meat!
- Eggs are a good source of protein but consume in moderation due to cholesterol amount in yolk. Egg yolk contains high lecithin, it covers living compounds on lungs, helpful to defend external germs and bacteria, boost immune system
- It’s recommended to consume about 150g to 200g lean meat/poultry/fish a day.
Example of 1 serve of lean meat/poultry/fish:
- 65g cooked lean red meats (beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat) = about 90-100g raw
- 80g cooked poultry (chicken or turkey) = 100g raw
- 100g cooked fish fillet OR 1 small can of fish
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup cooked beans/legumes
- 170g tofu
- 30g nuts or seeds
- Dairy also contains important nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and Vitamins A, D and B12 and riboflavin. With Vitamin B12 having a direct impact in white blood cell production and riboflavin maintaining your immune system’s response to infections.
- Having non-dairy substitutes of dairy is ok as long as they are FORTIFIED with the nutrients needed!
- It is recommended to have about 2 ½ serves of dairy intake per day.
Example of 1 serve of dairy:
- 1 Cup (250ml) fresh milk
- ¾ cup (200g) yoghurt
- 2 slices (40g) hard cheese (eg. Cheddar)
- 1 Cup (250ml) soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml
6. Drink Water!
- You need to drink 7 – 8 glasses of water a day (1500-2000ml), drink warm and plain water
- Water helps in removing toxins from your body and decreasing the risk of your body developing detrimental effects from said toxins
- LIMIT OR AVOID FRUIT JUICES AND SUGAR SWEETENED DRINKS (this includes bubble tea, soda, etc.)
7. Get Proper Exercise!
- Exercise can help promote good circulation which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
8. It’s all about Balance!
- The bottom line in maintaining your immune system is to have a balance of a proper diet, exercise, hydration and rest.
- Ideally, you need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a day. Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation and compromises your body to fight off infections.
9. Other Important Nutrients:
- Zinc helps regulates the development and function of immune cells
- Zinc can be found in a variety of foods such as meat, shellfish, seeds, nuts, eggs, wholegrains, fortified cereal, legums, pumpkin seeds, yoghurt
- Iron helps in the creation of immune cells and promotes immune response
- Animal sources for Iron: liver, sardines, beef, lamb, egg, duck
- Plant sources for Iron: legumes, tofu, tempeh, pumpkin seeds, nuts, brown rice, quinoa, kale, broccoli, spinach, spirulina
- TIP: Consume Iron foods with foods rich in Vitamin C (tomatoes, citrus fruits, capsicum) to help improve iron absorption. This is especially important if you only eat from plant sources.
Other Immune Boosting Foods:
- Green tea is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols have antimicrobial properties to help protect the body against potential viruses, infections and sickness.
- Instead of sugar sweetened drinks, try drinking a cup of unsweetened hot green tea instead.
- Turmeric has a nutrient called “curcumin” that has antiviral and antibacterial properties and has shown to act against various important human pathogens.
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- Health Harvard Publishing – Harvard Medical School. (2014). How to boost your immune system. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
- Jagetia, G.C., & Aggarwal, B.B. (2007). “Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin, 27(1), 19-35. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17211725
- Lab Tests Online. (2020). Vitamin B12 and Folate Deficiencies. Retrieved from: https://labtestsonline.org/conditions/vitamin-b12-and-folate-deficiencies
- Miranda, D.T., et al. (2008). Soy lecithin supplementation alters macrophage phagocytosis and lymphocyte response to concanavalin A: a study in alloxan-induced diabetic rats, 26(8), 859-65. Doi: 10.1002/cbf.1517.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013). Eat for Health Dietary Guidelines Summary. Retrieved from: https://eatforhealth.govcms.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/The%20Guidelines/n55a_australian_dietary_guidelines_summary_131014_1.pdf
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2019). Zinc – Fact Sheet for Consumers. Retrieved from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/
- National Sleep Foundation. (N.A.) How Sleep Affects Your Immunity. Retrieved from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity
- Reygaert, W.C. (2014). The antimicrobial possibilities of green tea, 5, 434. Doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00434
- Soyano, A., & Gomez, M. (1999). [Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections]., 49(3 Suppl 2), 40S-46S. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10971835
- Verdrengh, M. & Tawkowski, A. (2005). Riboflavin in innate and acquired immune responses, 54(9), 390-3. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16273338
- Winchester Hospital. (N.A). Health Library Vitamin B6. Retrieved from: https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=14068
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