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Sunday, 20 June 2021

Charging your immune system

Amany Abdel-Moneim, Tuesday 3 Mar 2020
Charging your immune system
Charging your immune system

Unfortunately, the corona virus is spreading fast, so you need to be strong enough from the inside out to beat it. 

While maintaining basic hygiene practices, avoiding crowded places, and wearing a face mask can be crucial to avoiding infection by the virus, building a strong immune system is always your best defence against infectious illness and disease. The immune system works by recognising the cells that make up your body and fighting off anything unfamiliar. It can fight back against any virus, parasite or bacteria and destroy it, but it depends for its effectiveness on the lifestyle choices you make every day. 

Nutritional deficiencies can weaken the immune system and make it easier for the body to be susceptible to viruses and bacteria. So, consume a balanced diet rich in fresh, whole foods with abundant vegetables and fruit to stay healthy and build up your immune system to avoid disease. Avoid sugar, chemicals, processed food and large amounts of food supplements. Older people need to pay attention to getting enough protein in the form of meat, eggs and dairy products in their diets.

Think about giving your body these powerful immune-boosting foods to keep your immune system strong:

Citrus fruits: These are rich in Vitamin C, which helps build up the body’s immune system. Vitamin C is also thought to increase the production of white blood cells, the keys to fighting infection. But because our bodies don’t produce Vitamin C themselves, we need to absorb it from food in order to create enough healthy collagen, a building block for the skin and efficient healing. Almost all citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C.

Red bell peppers: They contain twice as much Vitamin C as citrus fruits, and they are also a rich source of beta carotene. Besides boosting your immune system, this can help to keep your eyes and skin healthy.

Broccoli: This is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with Vitamins A, C and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fibre, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables around. In order to keep its health-giving powers intact, cook it as little as possible or even eat it raw.

Garlic: People have always valued garlic as an infection-fighter. Its immune-boosting properties are tied to its sulphur-containing compounds, including allicin, which is thought to improve the immune system’s ability to fight off colds, flu and viruses of all kinds. According to the US National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health, garlic may also help to lower blood pressure and slow down the hardening of the arteries.

Spinach: This is not only rich in Vitamin C but is also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of the immune system. Spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible, and light cooking enhances its Vitamin A content and allows other nutrients to be released.

Yoghurt: This can be a great source of Vitamin D, which helps regulate the immune system and is thought to boost the body’s natural defences against disease.

Turmeric: Known for its anti-inflammatory qualities, research has shown that high concentrations of curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive colour, can help to decrease exercise-induced muscle damage. Turmeric bolsters the immune system by stimulating antibody formation, and people with auto-immune diseases may be told by their doctors to take 500 mg of curcumin daily to reduce inflammation and stave off soreness.

Sunflower seeds: These are high in Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that is important to regulate and maintain immune-system function. The seeds are also full of nutrients, including phosphorous, magnesium and Vitamin B6. 

Ginger: This has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, and it can help with swollen glands, a sore throat or any inflammatory illnesses. Gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger, is a relative of capsaicin, and it has been found to alleviate pain and fight nausea.

Kiwis: These fruits are rich in essential nutrients including folate, potassium, Vitamin K and Vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts the production of white blood cells to fight infection, while the other nutrients in kiwis keep the rest of the body functioning properly.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 March, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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