No, eating mountains of broccoli or garlic galore will not protect you from Covid-19. There is no quick-fix for the immune system – genetics, age and exercise are all contributing factors – and no one single addition to your diet will protect you from infection.
But wait! A number of foods – garlic included – have remarkably good antimicrobial properties, and while they should not be scoffed instead of following measures already advocated by the World Health Organisation (washing hands thoroughly; covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing), it certainly won’t hurt to get a few more of these nutrient-rich foods into your daily diet.
“To keep yourself healthy you need to maintain a robust immune system and that involves, funnily enough, exercise, to help your immune system, and eating at least five portions of fruit and veg per day,” Explains Dr Dawn Harper, GP and presenter of Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies. “Vitamin C is particularly good for our immune system so we need to make sure we’re eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as getting sufficient sleep.”
Consider also seeking out foods high in vitamin E, D and A, plus iron, zinc and selenium. And if your local supermarket is running low on fresh produce, frozen fruit and veg is just as beneficial.
Whatever the crisis, eating a healthy balanced diet makes a lot of sense, so get stuck into these.
Broccoli is rich in vitamins A, C and E, as well as containing a number of antioxidants like sulforaphane (meant to be good for heart health and digestion). Readily available all year round, broccoli is perhaps one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get extra vitamins into your diet. Treat it with care, though – the more you cook it, the less nutritious it will be. Lightly steam, boil or microwave to lock in its immune-boosting properties.
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Red peppers contain three times the amount of vitamin C as citrus; in fact, it might surprise you to know that they are the most vitamin C-dense of any fruit or vegetable, as well as being a great source of beta-cerotene (which the body converts into vitamin A. Interestingly, red peppers have 11 times more beta-cerotene than green peppers, and one and a half times more vitamin C.
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Blueberries contain anthocyanin, a flavanoid with antioxidant properties that play an essential role in the respiratory tract immune system.
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Rich in vitamin B6, manganese, selenium and vitamin C, garlic has long been regarded as useful for helping to fight infections and viruses. Allicin, the sulphur-containing compound that gives it its distinctive smell and taste, has been proven to have antibacterial affects; crushing and bruising garlic cloves supposedly stimulates the production of allicin, however, cooking the cloves will inevitably inhibit some of its medicinal properties.
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Spinach is rich in flavanoids, cerotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin E, and is believed to support the immune system and even help to fight some cancers. Other leafy greens such as cavolo nero, spring greens and kale have similar health benefits.
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The trendy fermented drink known for its benefits to the gut biome is also thought to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-allergenic effects. Consume it regularly as a drink or with breakfast.
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