food

Foods for resilience and immunity

Key points:

  • With the coronavirus outbreak, cancer patients are looking to support their immune system as much as possible.
  • The Curve.life eating mantra stands during these times: “eat food, not too much, mainly certain types of plants”.  You can see our video series and other articles for more detail here
  • For immunity, zinc, vitamin C and good quality protein are particularly important.
  • A healthy gut microbiome is also important, and so plant foods, which are high in fibre, are helpful here.
  • Antioxidants and other phytonutrients from plant foods help support the immune system and general health in multiple ways.

In the current situation with the Coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to follow official healthcare guidance about reducing risk.  People living with a cancer diagnosis or after treatment for cancer may be interested to learn how they can best support their immune system, and we discuss this below.  Please don’t forget to follow your doctor’s and the government’s advice carefully to take care of yourself, your family and your community. This nutrition information does not replace proper medical advice.

An important note – there may be some medications that have incompatibilities with some nutrients. For example, if you have been told to avoid certain foods, such as grapefruit, or vitamin-C rich foods, because of your medicines, you must follow your doctor’s recommendations. If you have been told to avoid cultured foods because your immune system is depleted, you should follow that advice.

 

Let’s look at foods that can help immune function and general resilience. Eating well is helpful for overall health, but there are also many specific foods that help to provide your immune system with important nutrients. Overall diet quality and choosing particular foods can be very helpful for supporting health and resilience. Plant foods are healthful choices, they provide an array of vitamins and minerals, but they also provide phytonutrients. These botanical compounds in certain foods are especially valuable.  Don’t forget the Curve.life eating mantra – “eat food, not too much, mainly certain types of foods”.  For more, see our video series.

Amongst the important nutrients for immunity are protein, zinc and vitamin C. Foods that support the growth of beneficial microbes in the intestine (prebiotic foods) can also contribute to healthy immune function. Cultured foods such as yoghurt or kefir, provide beneficial microbes, which are now considered to be helpful for immune function.

Eggs stacked

Protein is important for immune function. Fish, eggs, meat, and poultry provide protein from animal sources. Vegetarian sources of protein include tofu, beans and nuts and seeds.

Zinc is vital for immunity and we use more of it to fight infection. Zinc is provided by fish, eggs and meat. Nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, as well as providing protein.

Vitamin C is found in an array of fruits and vegetables. If you choose a variety of brightly colored plant foods you will obtain a range of beneficial nutrients including vitamin C and other important compounds.

Fruits that are rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, which also contain flavonoids that help vitamin C to work more effectively.

Kiwifruit are rich in vitamin C and contain fiber that supports the growth of beneficial microbes in the intestines.  Don’t be afraid to eat the skin!

Blackcurrants, blueberries and other dark red and purple berries pack a powerful punch of nutrients including flavonoids and vitamin C.

Vegetables that provide vitamin C include garden peas, broccoli, watercress and cabbage.

Apples contain a helpful antioxidant called quercetin, and also contain pectin, a valuable prebiotic fibre.

Red yellow and orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, sweet bell peppers and tomatoes are nutritionally beneficial providing carotenoids that also help immune function.

different cruciferous vegetables

Mushrooms – Exotic mushrooms such as Shiitake and Oyster varieties and the humble white button mushroom all provide useful nutrients. As well as providing protein, fiber and several vitamins, all mushrooms contain beta-glucans, compounds that help stimulate a healthy immune response. Some exotic varieties have specific nutrients that may support immunity, so try Shiitake mushrooms in a stir-fry with colorful veggies.

Garlic – a flavourful addition to many foods, garlic has a number of natural compounds to support your health. Garlic contains sulphur-containing compounds, found in all Allium vegetables like onion, scallion and leek. The fiber content of Allium vegetables helps to support healthful balance of microbes in the intestine, which are now recognised as important for immunity.

In Summary:

Continue to eat well, which in the Curve.life world means “eat food, not too much, mainly certain types of plants”.  This advice stands in the context of the current Coronavirus outbreak.

Not only is eating well helpful for overall health, there are many foods that help to provide your immune system with important nutrients.  Protein and zinc are particularly important in this regard. Overall diet quality and choosing particular foods can be very helpful for supporting health and resilience. Plant foods are healthful choices, they provide an array of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They also provide prebiotic fibers which supports the growth of beneficial microbes in the digestive system. Cultured foods such as yoghurt may also provide valuable microbes.

Although beyond the scope of this article, exercise, sleep and stress management are also beneficial to the immune system and are particularly important in the current climate.

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