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Can foods boost your immune system?

03 Apr 2020 07:24:18
fresh veg

Understandably people are worried about COVID-19 and are wanting to do anything they can in order to avoid it. This fear has allowed for misinformation to spread regarding food and immunity. Your nutrition and dietetic service has tried to answer some of your questions below.

Can we boost the immune system via diet?

Vitamin C is well known to be a “immune-boosting super nutrient” however this is actually a misunderstanding of how the immune system works. Good hygiene practice remains the best means of avoiding infections.  Vitamin C is still important to support a healthy normal immune function however large doses provide no extra benefit and can cause nausea. 

There are many nutrients that are involved to support the normal function of the immune system. The most important thing is to supplying the body with all the essential nutrients by having a healthy balanced diet in order to support the immune system.

Some of the issues people are having with being able to have a balanced diet is being unable to access fresh fruit and vegetables especially when they are self-isolating. To overcome this problem, stack your freezer with a variety of frozen veg and also have some tinned fruit and vegetables, in your store cupboard so they can come in handy when you are unable to go out. Frozen and tinned can still be as nourishing as fresh.

Should we take a food supplement?

Unfortunately, there is no strong evidence that taking a food supplement has disease fighting powers. Luckily for us food provides us with a variety of key nutrients to support a healthy immune system. Eating a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables aiming for 5 portions per day helps the body to get everything it needs from our diet. 

Many of us are having to stay indoors more than usual. We normally get vitamin D from sunlight, therefore people with little or no exposure should consider taking a 10 microgram Vitamin D supplement each day. Vitamin D can be purchased from supermarkets or pharmacies. 

It is strongly advised to avoid taking foods or supplements advertised as ‘immune boosting’ in an attempt to protect us from the virus, there are many reports garlic can help prevent COVID-19 however this advice is not evidence based and there is no evidence it can protect people.  

We should not allow un-evidenced food claims distract us from the steps to stop the spread of the infection- social distancing, regular hygiene, stay home to protect the NHS.

Further information is available on the BDA website.