Vitamins and minerals you need to be taking in now
By DR. KAYCEE REYES
Most of the world is still at a standstill. Even if scientists are working at record speed to develop a vaccine—the fastest yet in history—there is still no specific cure or treatment for Covid-19. While social distancing, face masks, stay-at-home orders, and work-from-home scenarios are now part of our daily norm, how else can we protect ourselves from this virus, especially when it has not yet slowed down in most parts of the world, including ours?
The answer is found in the kitchen. Nutrition plays a huge role not only in keeping our bodies adequately nourished, but it also improves the immune system to protect our bodies from disease and fight any intruder. Covid-19 may exhibit a range of symptoms that can be mild (fever, fatigue, dry cough), severe (shortness of breath or chest pains), or one can even be asymptomatic.
While health experts are still learning why its severity varies among individuals, it is safe to say that immune system response and one’s state of overall health are important factors to consider as to why one infected individual may be rushed to the ER, while another might not feel anything at all.
Unhealthy diets and a poor lifestyle are two of the major culprits for having a higher risk of death and disease.
According to the World Health Organization, global obesity rates have tripled since 1975, and is now also a rising health problem in low- and middle-income countries. This is why preventing and fighting any disease, including Covid-19, begins with you. Here are some of the nutritional recommendations (Budhwar, Sethi, Chakraborty, 2020, p.1-10) to strengthen your immune system, especially during this pandemic.
1. Vitamin A—This fat-soluble vitamin is also known as a powerful anti-inflammatory as it helps in the development of the innate immune system and its cells, including helping in the response of natural killer T cells that trigger cytokine activity. The inclusion of this vitamin in one’s diet has been studied to be helpful in preventing various diseases, from HIV and heart disease to lung conditions. Vitamin A can be found in a lot of fruits (mango, papaya), vegetables (spinach, sweet potatoes, and broccoli), and animal sources (eggs, salmon, and milk).
2. Vitamin C—A popular and effective antioxidant that can eliminate free radicals and tamper inflammation. It also helps in T cell-reproduction and maturation that protects the body from harmful pathogens. This vitamin also acts as a weak antihistamine that can help with flu-like symptoms and even lung-related conditions. Moreover, it can help against other viruses such as influenza and HIV. Vitamin C is abundant in fruits (oranges, lemon, and strawberries) and vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes).
3. Vitamin D—It is not only a vitamin but also a hormone one can get from adequate sunlight exposure. It helps in both innate (nonspecific defenses) and adaptive (pathogen-specific) immune responses and has shown to be effective when added to therapies in treating other viral infections. Studies have also shown that it could also attach to entry cell receptors of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, thereby preventing the virus from binding with these receptors and infecting the cell.
4. Vitamin E—Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that also helps against cell damage. With anti-inflammatory properties, it is also significant in regulating the immune system. The deficiency of this vitamin has been linked to one’s susceptibility to inflammation and infection. Vitamin E can be also found in fruits (avocado and mango) and nuts (almonds).
5. Omega-3—Polyunsaturated fatty acids are also important in immune response as it produces a compound that can prohibit virus replication. Moreover, Omega-3 fatty acids icosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have anti-inflammatory properties that help with easing inflammatory cytokine responses during viral infections. Chia seeds and edamame are packed with Omega-3 PUFA.
6. Iron—It is an essential mineral that also plays a significant role in immune system response, where it can find and eliminate pathogens via T cells. It is said that low T cells may indicate an iron deficiency. A lack of iron in one’s diet is related to an increased risk in respiratory conditions like pneumonia. Pregnant or nursing women, vegan, and endurance athletes are some of the individuals at risk of iron deficiency. Iron is found in tomatoes, spinach, kale, eggs, organ meat, and whole grains, to name a few.
7. Zinc—It is a trace mineral that is essential as it helps in the regulation of the immune system. A deficiency of this mineral is linked to a higher risk of infections. In fact, the inhibition of RNA-related virus reproduction is linked to zinc. Moreover, when supplemented correctly, it can also help with respiratory-related conditions and in reducing the severity of coronavirus-related symptoms. Food that are high in zinc include kale, beef, lamb, cheese, flax seeds, peanuts, cashews, and almonds.
Other nutritional recommendations that help with the immune system are Arginine (helps the T cell response), Cartinine, and Probiotics (helps the immune system by maintaining healthy gut flora). Of course, keeping yourself hydrated, taking two to three liters of water or green tea a day, is beneficial for your overall health as well.
It is important for us to start making healthier choices. The role of nutrition in one’s health is very important now more than ever. One should not underestimate the power of food to heal, repair, and replenish. Start with incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet, gradually eliminating sugar and processed food, and begin your shift to a healthier lifestyle. As they say, it’s better late than never.