Can I Boost My Immunity Through Food?

Today we share a blog from The Lifestyle Dietitian. Michelle and Erika are both Accredited Practising Dietitians and their aim is to guide their clients to reach their goals in a way that is enjoyable, fits in with their lifestyle and is sustainable for a lifetime. In today’s blog, they bust some myths for us with all things related to food and immunity.’

There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a surge of health claims on how to “boost” our immunity. From vitamin C supplements to probiotics and herbals teas, I believe some dietitian-approved myth-busting is hugely important right now as misleading advice can put our health at risk. Not to mention, information-overload in a world where everything has been turned on its head can be a recipe for high stress. Higher stress levels, even over just a few days can see a spike in the hormone cortisol, which actually suppresses our immune system. So what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to food and our immunity?

FICTION: “Boosting” our immunity is a good thing

Our immune system is a team of many cells and organs which collectively fight off unwanted viruses, pathogens and bacteria. “Boosting” this system would send it into an overactive state, triggering allergic reactions and autoimmune disorders. So no, boosting our immunity is not desirable. Instead, we want to support normal functioning of our immune system.

FACT: Nutrient dense foods are important

A number of nutrients are important in keeping our immune systems healthy, especially protein, iron, zinc, selenium, copper, folate and vitamins A, B-6, C and D. If I listed all the foods containing these nutrients we would end up with a long-winded repetition of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. The trick to ensuring you hit your requirements for all of these immune-supporting nutrients is have a variety of foods within the major food groups:

  • Vegetables (For ways to include more colour click here)
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains and cereals
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu and legumes
  • Dairy products or plant-based alternatives
  • Nuts, seeds and unsaturated oils

FICTION: Food and supplements can prevent catching COVID-19

There is currently no scientific evidence for any supplement or food to prevent catching COVID-19. The best way to #stopthespread as outlined by the World Health Organisation is vigilant hand hygiene, social distancing, avoiding touching your face and covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing.

FACT: Increasing plant-based foods in your diet is a good starting point

If supplements are out and having an overall healthy balanced diet is key, what is the first step we can take to help our immune system do its job? Focus on plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds and aim for lots of colour where you can. These foods are not only rich in immune-supporting vitamins and minerals, but also fibre which feeds our good gut bacteria. Up to 70% of our immune system comes from our gut, so making sure the good bacteria are well-fed and thriving is important. The goal is at least 25-30g of fibre daily, which many of us are nowhere near! If this is you, my tip is to start increasing fibre gradually, around 5g per week or an extra piece of fruit each day, as too much at once can cause bloating, gas, cramps and constipation.

If the current climate of information overload has you feeling overwhelmed and in need of extra support and guidance towards a balanced nutrient and fibre-rich diet, BOOK A CONSULTATION with one of The Lifestyle Dietitians via Telehealth today.

For Individualised Lifestyle and Exercise Advice, call Longevity 1300 964 002

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