With concerns growing around the Coronavirus pandemic, more and more people are looking for ways to boost their immunity. The best ways to increase your immune system and help prevent the flu is to get more sleep, stop smoking and exercise regularly. In addition to these factors, diet plays a significant role in enhanced immunity, particularly, a diet packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
The perception that eating foods naturally or in supplemental form can provide increased immunity, is not new. It is documented that the Ancient Egyptians, over 4000 years ago, began applying a type of honey to wounds to speed up the healing process and prevent serious infections. This very idea has continued today, as the nectar from a specific type of honey is claimed to have the ability to relieve flu and sore throat symptoms, as well as reduce infections. Nowadays, there is a scientific term for this very concept of using foods to help enhance the immune system - Immunonutrition. And it is being used to treat malnutrition, enhance recovery after surgery and even at home by everyday people to prevent colds and the flu or just help people feel better.
There are around 90 nutrients needed to maintain human life, including minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Nutrients that provide immune benefits are called "immunonutrients." Most of these nutrients are antioxidants, amino acids, specific vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Let’s look at a few of them further:
- Antioxidants – Antioxidants can protect your immune cells from damage and free radicals that naturally occur as you age. If your body has an overabundance of free radicals and oxidative stress, you become more prone to getting sick, certain diseases and earlier mortality. Antioxidants are mostly found in fruits and veggies and are usually responsible for giving your fruits and vegetables their colours. For example, carrots have a lot of antioxidant, Beta-carotene, which gives them their bright orange colour. Other good sources of antioxidants are green leafy vegetables, berries including blueberries and raspberries, grapes, tea, and red wine. It is also interesting to note that vitamin C, the vitamin most known for cold and flu prevention, is a powerful antioxidant! Vitamin C minimizes the processes that can damage your cells, creating an overall boost to your immune system.
- Amino Acids – Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. A deficiency in protein or certain amino acids is known to impair immune function and increase the risk of infections. Some of the main roles of amino acids in the body are the activation of lymphocytes, the production of antibodies and the involvement of gene expression, all of which are involved in enhanced immune function. Studies have shown that the amino acids, arginine, glutamine, and cysteine, are, specifically, important for immune health. An easy way to increase your total amino acid consumption is by taking a protein powder or eating protein-rich foods.
- Omega-3s – Although Omega-3’s are mostly known for promoting brain health, Omega-3s are also involved in the regulation of the immune pathways. The immune system is a complex defence system that protects against dangerous organisms, such as viruses or bacteria, that can invade your healthy cells. In order for the system to be successful, the body needs to work systematically to protect itself. Omega-3’s act as mediators that help regulate these processes. Furthermore, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help fight autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s Disease.
With the concerns of the COVID-19 virus skyrocketing at the moment, we need to take the proper precautions to protect our health and the health of loved ones. In addition to social distancing, proper hygiene, getting enough sleep; our diet can be used as a tool to minimize the symptoms of the infection. Hopefully, you are now more aware of the types of food to buy to help maintain a healthy immune system. At AURA, we have a few options that might help, as well:
Faultless: An Immune Boosting Superfood
Faultless is a perfect addition to an immune-boosting diet because it has so many healthy nutrients, including antioxidants, a complete amino acid profile and even omega-3s! It is an excellent source of phytonutrients, which are found only in plant sources. Phytonutrients have antioxidant properties and work similarly to antioxidants, in that they enhance immunity, repair DNA damage and have protective effects. You can easily mix it into your favourite foods or beverages for an extra boost of nutrition. Learn more about Faultless here.
Protein Powders for Immunity
Adding protein powders to your diet is an effective way of increasing your amino acid consumption. AURA Nutrition offers three types of protein powders: Chocolate Whey, Vanilla Plant Based and Unflavoured Plant Based Protein. Depending on your flavour preference, all three powders have a complete amino acid profile and contain 25g of protein per serving. Click here to try out our Immunity Boosting Smoothie recipe with AURA Vanilla Plant-Based Protein Powder!
Kirstin Berrington is an AURA Team member with a passion for all things nutrition and health. As a nutritionist, she is equipped with a B.Sc. in Human Nutritional Sciences to help answer all your food-related questions.