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Immune system boosters: What are they and how do they work?

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Eating certain foods can help keep your immune system strong – read below and find out what foods you need to eat during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Citrus fruits

Vitamin C helps build up your immune system and increases the production of white blood cells. Our body does not produce or store vitamin C and therefore you need daily vitamin C for continued health.
Citrus-rich fruits include:

  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Clementines
  • Papaya
  • Kiwi

Dark leafy greens

  • Broccoli is packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fibre.
  • Spinach is rich in vitamin C, antioxidants,  and beta carotene, which all increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking enhances its vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released from oxalic acid.

Yoghurt

Live and active cultured yoghurt can stimulate your immune system to fight diseases. Yoghurt is also rich in vitamin D which helps regulate the immune system and can boost our natural defences against diseases.

Tea

Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Green tea has high concentrations of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, another powerful antioxidant. EGCG enhances immune function. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved. Green tea is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine aids in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T-cells.

Garlic

Garlic contains allicin, a property which is released when you cut into the vegetable. This, along with the antioxidants inside the vegetable, helps to fight off infection and support the immune system.
Studies have found that taking aged garlic reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms and that these symptoms also went away quicker. Their overall conclusion from this was that garlic boosted participant’s immune cell function.

Ginger

Ginger reduces inflammation, which can help eliminate a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses, including nausea. It packs some heat in the form of gingerol, a relative of capsaicin.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a key go-to anti-inflammatory spice; it’s active compound curcumin that suppresses oxidative stress and inflammation.

Poultry

Poultry  (chicken and turkey) is high in vitamin B6; vitamin B6 is vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity.

Eating right is a start, and there are other things you can do to protect you and your family from viruses.

Isha Patel, BSc Nutrition

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