WORKING from home, schooling your kids and being cooped up indoors takes its toll, leaving many of us reaching for junk food.
A study this week revealed that gorging on takeaways dramatically affects emotions, often making us irritable and angry. So soothe your mood by changing what you eat.
Nutritionist Charlotte Faure Green says: “This is not the time to beat yourself up about what you’re eating. But remember, a diet full of fruit and veg not only boosts mental health but will go a long way to supporting your immune system.”
Here, Charlotte shares her top 18 foods and vitamins to boost well-being in lockdown.
These are loaded with vitamin B6, which helps to build serotonin and dopamine – our happy brain chemicals.
They are also a great source of fibre, which goes to feeding our good gut bacteria.
Not only do they come in their own clever packaging but they are the perfect snack to give your brain a feel-good boost.
2. Vitamin D supplements
Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because we get it from exposure to the sun.
We live under a pretty grey sky in the UK during the winter so it’s fair to assume we’re not getting enough, and that in turn is linked to low moods.
A supplement is a great way to top up those levels and could offer just the boost you need.
3. Baked beans
Beans are good for your heart, but also your brain.
They contain high levels of protein, including tryptophan, which acts as a mood elevator.
They also provide the B vitamins, making beans a bit of an all-in-one food for a good mood.
It is the most popular drink in the world. And studies show caffeine may elevate levels of feel-good serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
One decade-long study showed that women who drank coffee were less likely to become depressed. But be mindful that the mood-lifting success differs from person to person.
Try to drink it after food to slow down the stimulatory effect. And preferably before lunchtime.
Potatoes have a bad reputation they just don’t deserve. Our humble spud is one of the healthiest foods going, full of mood-boosting nutrients including magnesium and vitamin C.
Our brain needs carbs to function and create serotonin. Why not get all this goodness in the nation’s favourite form of potato – the chip?
Pair with protein and swap to sweet potato fries for extra brownie points (they contain a little more vitamin B6).
6. Omega-3 fish oil supplements
These unbeatable mood boosters are cheap and full of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, without the pong!
Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be the only anti-inflammatory able to cross the blood–brain barrier into our grey matter. Fish oils are vital for brain health and managing our stress response.
Supplements are great if you’re not hitting the recommended two portions of oily fish per week.
You have probably heard about the health benefits of fibre. But not all fibres are created equal. Oats contain a special type of fibre called beta-glucan.
We eat these for our gut bacteria to use as fuel, to enable them to make our happy and calming brain chemicals.
Clever! A study showed people who ate oats at breakfast reported better mood and energy levels and less irritability.
8. Peanut butter
An energy-boosting protein with healthy fats. A study completed in 2020 found that regular consumption of nuts and legumes was associated with a 66 per cent lower risk of anxiety.
This could be due to a special compound called p-coumaric acid which is associated with increasing brain levels of GABA, our calming neurotransmitter, to decrease stress.
Leaving only the argument: Smooth or crunchy?
You want clinically proven permission to eat chocolate? You got it! A 2013 study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that chocolate has many different compounds that can give our mood a boost.
Dark chocolate in particular contains the building blocks of serotonin, and magnesium which reduces stress.
It also makes us release endorphins, much like we do when we exercise, which can also serve to reduce our stress levels.
10. Vitamin B12
In an ideal world we would get all our nutrients for good health from the food we eat.
Vegans are often very low in vitamin B12, which is primarily found in animal products, and iron, which can be found in abundance in leafy greens.
This complex contains many of the big hitters for good mood- building, as an all-in-one capsule.
The lovely dark purple and red colouring of berries is due to all the antioxidants they contain, which are responsible for protecting our cells, particularly in the brain.
They also feed some of our most beneficial gut bacteria, essential for creating calming neurotransmitters and help manage inflammation in the brain associated with depression and other mood disorders.
Eggs are a great source of protein. But also of choline, which is an essential micro- nutrient required in order for the brain to function properly and is associated with mood regulation.
Eggs are also high in vitamins B6 and B12, among countless other nutrients, that are vital for the production of our good mood chemicals.
13. St John’s Wort tablets
St John’s Wort has long been used as an herbal remedy to relieve mild to moderate low mood, anxiety and sleep problems.
It is readily available over the counter, but this does not mean it is for everyone. Speak to a healthcare professional first.
St John’s Wort is known to interact with numerous medications, including reducing the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill.
Being poorly hydrated can mimic feelings of panic, so ensuring that you have lots of water-filled foods such as oranges can go a long way to improving mood.
Oranges are rich in those lovely B vitamins but also vitamin C, which we burn through at very high rates when stressed, making replenishing those stores very important.
We all know about using honey to fight colds and infections, but magical honey also contains tryptophan, the building block of serotonin, so it can help to boost your mood.
It is sweet like sugar, but honey does not release inflammatory free radicals in the same way refined sugar does and can actually help reduce brain inflammation.
Pro- biotic foods, including yoghurt, contain friendly gut bacteria.
Many of our happy hormones and neurotransmitters are produced by the bacteria in the gut, so ensuring these are kept replenished every day gives our mood the best chance.
Oily fish salmon makes up one letter of nifty acronym S.M.A.S.H.
Not the powdered potato you remember from childhood – it stands for Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies, Salmon and Herring – all easily sourced fishes rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
They are brain protectors which help increase circulating levels of serotonin.
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Yes, we’ve saved the best till last. Research has linked moderate alcohol intake with a better mood, not to mention a longer life.
And red wine also provides tons of antioxidants that benefit your brain and heart. Having a small glass of red alongside dinner has been established as a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a reduced risk of developing depressive symptoms.
But remembering that the health properties of wine may stop after a small amount is important.
A bout of cold and flu can set alarm bells ringing during the pandemic. Boost your immunity with these foods and keep the common cold at bay
Winter means chilly mornings, sipping hot cocoa and snuggling under the blanket. But it is also the flu season, and with the pandemic around, you can never be sure if it’s just a cold or covid-19. “Some foods have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties which help us fight seasonal diseases,” says Dr Archana Batra who is a dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator. With the ongoing covid-19 situation, we are bound to take extra care to boost our immunity, so, here is a comprehensive list of foods which will not only boost your immunity but safeguard you against the flu and common cold.
For ages, honey has been used for its antibacterial properties. In ancient Egypt, it was used to heal wounds. “Honey plays a vital role in improving the immune system and in hydrating the body,” says Batra. The antibacterial properties in it help to suppress coughs and relieve sore throat. You can start your day with a glass of warm water with honey and lemon or you can add honey to your tea and milk.
It has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. “Ginger helps to fight nausea which is a common problem when you have the flu,” says Batra. You can add raw ginger to your hot soup or brew it with
your tea. To avoid viral infections, you can boil ginger with other spices and can have it after the liquid has cooled.
It has antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties and has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries. It also helps to boost the immune system. “It is medically proven that regular consumption of garlic lessens the chances of catching a cold,” she says. Even garlic supplements help to decrease the severity of a cold. If you have a bad cough and cold, you can have raw garlic every morning. Other than that, you can add garlic to your hot soups and broths. It helps to provide relief if you have a sore throat.
It is easy to digest and filled with all the necessary minerals, vitamins, protein and nutrients to help heal your system when you’re recovering from a flu. It is a rich source of electrolytes and fluids to restore your strength after a fever. “Hot chicken soup helps to clear the nasal mucus and thus acts as a natural decongestant” she informs. The amino acid cysteine in chicken helps to deal with the flu-causing virus.
Yoghurt is packed with calcium, vitamins, minerals, protein and beneficial probiotics. All these nutrients help to boost the immune system and decrease the chance of getting affected by the common cold. However, dairy products do not suit all during the cold. “You have to be cautious about the effects of yoghurt on your body. If you feel that it thickens your mucus, then you can skip it from your diet,” she warns.
The soluble fibre in it helps to boost digestion. It also provides all the nutrients to the patient who is suffering from a cold. “People have a misconception that bananas make a cold worse. It is false,” says the expert. So what are you waiting for? Load up on its goodness!
Green leafy vegetables
We all know the healthy benefits of green vegetables. Add vegetables with antioxidant properties like spinach, broccoli, kale, bell peppers to your diet. Winter is the best season to experiment with different green salads and soups by adding seasonal vegetables to it. “Vitamin A, K, C, fibre, and minerals help in rapid recovery from the common cold,” says Batra.
It is more than just a breakfast option. It is very high in soluble fibre that helps in boosting cardiac health and zinc helps in improving the immune system. “This fibre helps to reduce the inflammation in the guts which causes bloating, cramping and diarrhoea,” she informs. It is also rich in omega 3. Thus, oats provide all the essential nutrients to your body which you need to combat viral infections in the winter season.
“Apart from having the above foods, you must indulge in some sort of physical exercise like yoga, Pilates, aerobics, etc to improve the immune system,” concludes Batra.
Heliyon. 2021 Jan;7(1):e05957. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e05957. Epub 2021 Jan 14.
BACKGROUND: Viruses are responsible for several diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome, a condition caused by today’s pandemic coronavirus disease (COVID-19). A negotiated immune system is a common risk factor for all viral infections, including COVID-19. To date, no specific therapies or vaccines have been approved for coronavirus. In these circumstances, antiviral and immune boosting foods may ensure protection against viral infections, especially SARS-CoV-2 by reducing risk and ensuring fast healing of SARS-CoV-2 illness.
SCOPE AND APPROACH: In this review, we have conducted an online search using several search engines (Google Scholar, PubMed, Web of Science and Science Direct) to find out some traditional foods (plant, animal and fungi species), which have antiviral and immune-boosting properties against numerous viral infections, particularly coronaviruses (CoVs) and others RNA-virus infections. Our review indicated some foods to be considered as potential immune enhancers, which may help individuals to overcome viral infections like COVID-19 by modulating immune systems and reducing respiratory problems. Furthermore, this review will provide information regarding biological properties of conventional foods and their ingredients to uphold general health.
KEY FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS: We observed some foods with antiviral and immune-boosting properties, which possess bioactive compounds that showed significant antiviral properties against different viruses, particularly RNA viruses such as CoVs. Interestingly, some antiviral and immune-boosting mechanisms were very much similar to the antiviral drug of COVID-19 homologous SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus). The transient nature and the devastating spreading capability of COVID-19 lead to ineffectiveness of many curative therapies. Therefore, body shielding and immune-modulating foods, which have previous scientific recognition, have been discussed in this review to discern the efficacy of these foods against viral infections, especially SARS-CoV-2.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the number of cases for the 2020-21 flu season is way down this year, it’s still important to keep your immune system strong.
“Now is the time to become a health advocate and shore up your immune system, the body’s natural defense system to ward off illness and reduce your risk of disease,” Dr. Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D., author of “The Natural Medicine Chest,” tells Newsmax. “The efficient functioning of the immune system is of paramount importance to everyone, adults and children alike, since it controls our ability to fend off illness, whether it be a serious threat or even common sniffles.”
“The pigments that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors represent a variety of protective compounds. Eating plant-based foods plays an important role in reducing the risk of breast, prostate and other forms of cancer,” she says.
Here are 10 top immune boosting foods:
Blueberries. The anthocyanins in blueberries destroy free radicals, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health, says Levin. One cup of blueberries provides 15% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. Not only is vitamin C a key nutrient that helps the immune system work properly, it is also an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.
Sweet potatoes. The beta-carotene in sweet potatoes fights cancer and supports the immune system. They also contain more than three times the recommended amount of vitamin A and are a good source of B6.
Garlic and onions. The allyl sulfides in these vegetables help destroy cancer cells and reduce cell division, notes Levin. Garlic contains the enzyme alliinase, which converts to alliin to allicin that boost immune function. You can also reap the benefits by using aged garlic extract if you do not like the strong taste of the raw or cooked product.
Broccoli. This super healthy veggie and its cousin, Brussel sprouts, contain indoles and lutein which support eye health. They also eliminate excess estrogen and carcinogens from the body.
Tomatoes. Tomatoes are an immune boosting powerhouse. They contain lycopene which helps prevent breast and prostate cancer, says Levin. According to research, lycopene may also reduce your risk of heart disease. Tomatoes also contain potassium which helps control blood pressure and vitamin K which is important for blood coagulation and bone health.
Oil fish. Fish like salmon, trout, anchovies, and sardines are rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids which are a precursor to many compounds that play a defensive role in immune response, says Michelle Dudash, RDN, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families.
Red bell peppers. Keri Glassman, MS., RD., and founder of Nutritious Life, says she hasn’t had a cold in over a decade thanks to the power of peppers. “Red peppers are one of my favorite foods to incorporate into my diet for immune-boosting benefits,” she says. They are particularly rich in vitamin C which is important for immunity, reducing the length and severity of colds, and collagen which keeps your skin healthy.
Black Elderberries. Kamhi, aka The Natural Nurse, says that this delicious fruit, which is readily available in health food stores as a syrup, is a superhero of immune boosters. “It offers gentle yet powerful support for the immune system,” she says. As a plus, the syrup is tasty and has a flavor even kids will love.
Yogurt. Yogurt supports a health digestive system which in turn bolsters the immune system. “The immune system is the main link between our gut bacteria and how it influences our health,” says Gabrielle Geerts, RD, from Boulder, Colorado.
Oil of oregano. Kamhi says the oil is rich in vitamins and minerals that offer beneficial support to the immune system. Oregano is also a natural antioxidant, anti-fungal and antibacterial—which is exactly what your body needs to stay healthy. By consuming oregano in concentrated oil form, you reap the most benefits. If you don’t like the taste of the drops, you can purchase supplements in capsule form.
Vitamin A is an important nutrient that plays a role in many crucial bodily functions. A deficiency may occur when a person does not get enough vitamin A to cover their body’s needs, and may lead to troubling symptoms.
Dietary intake is the simplest way to access enough vitamin A for most people. In some cases, doctors may recommend supplements or other forms of vitamin A to help replenish very low stores.
Keep reading to learn about the causes and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, why vitamin A is important, and some foods that are rich in vitamin A.
Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency may differ in severity, and some people may have more serious symptoms than others. Below are some possible symptoms people may experience:
Vitamin A plays a part in creating healthy cells. Not having enough of the key vitamin may delay growth or cause children to experience stunted growth or slow bone growth.
The cause of vitamin A deficiency is not getting enough vitamin A in the body or having an underlying issue that results in the body not absorbing or utilizing vitamin A effectively.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed nations, such as the United States, and common in developing nations, where people do not have as much access to vitamin A.
Some people may be more at risk of vitamin A deficiency, including:
pregnant or lactating people
infants and young children in developing countries
Additionally, a secondary deficiency may occur in people who have underlying issues that interfere with the body’s ability to use vitamin A, such as those with:
Young children and pregnant people in low income countries are at the highest risk of severe effects from vitamin A deficiency.
There is an important link between vitamin A and vision. In addition to helping create the membranes of the eye and cornea, vitamin A is a key compound of a protein in the body called rhodopsin, which absorbs light in the retina.
Vitamin A also plays a crucial role in cell growth in other areas and helps with the normal formation and functioning of the cells in the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.
There are two forms of vitamin A in the human diet. The first is preformed vitamin A, such as retinol, which comes from animal sources, including meat, fish, and dairy.
The second form is provitamin A carotenoids, such as beta carotene. These compounds are not usable forms of vitamin A as they exist naturally, but the body converts them into a usable form of vitamin A.
Both forms of the vitamin will go through an additional metabolization in the body, becoming active retinal and retinoic acid.
There are a number of simple dietary sources of vitamin A. This includes both plant and animal sources, so it is typically easy to meet intake recommendations when following a healthful, balanced diet.
The NIH list a number of plant and animal sources of vitamin A and their values.
Vitamin A also comes in various forms as a dietary supplement. Doctors may recommend taking a supplement if a person has difficulty getting enough vitamin A from their daily diet.
These supplements may contain preformed vitamin A or other forms, such as beta carotene, or a mixture of the two.
Anyone who is concerned about their vitamin A levels may wish to contact their doctor to have these levels checked. This may help diagnose any underlying condition.
People with underlying conditions that may put them at risk of various deficiencies should regularly check in with their doctor to keep an eye on their vitamin levels and make any necessary adjustments.
While the WHO note that vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed nations, where people have access to many foods rich in vitamin A, it may still occur in some people. Anyone who notices the signs of severe deficiency, such as nighttime blindness, should contact a doctor immediately.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning the body stores it in its tissues. It is possible to take too much vitamin A, which can lead to serious side effects. A person should avoid taking high-dose vitamin A supplements unless prescribed and monitored by a healthcare professional.
Vitamin A deficiency is not common in places with access to common foods rich in vitamin A. However, deficiency can occur in cases where people cannot easily access these foods or where other issues cause the vitamin A to be unavailable.
Children and pregnant or breastfeeding people in low income countries have the highest risk of severe complications from vitamin A deficiency.
If a person is concerned about their symptoms or has an underlying condition that may disrupt their vitamin A intake, they should contact a doctor.
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., and author of FromFatigued to Fantastic!emphasizes what an important role food plays in our immune health. “Diet is critical to optimal immunity,” he says. “Especially increasing foods that contain zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D can be beneficial to the immune system.”
When you choose foods that are higher in vitamins and minerals, you’re getting more antioxidants and healthy compounds into your body, and that helps you fight off potential illness, or at least lessen the severity. Take zinc, for instance; one of the best-known immunity boosters that can be found in OTC medicines like Zicam (for alleviating cold symptoms). “Without adequate levels of zinc, the key hormone regulating immunity, called thymulin, simply does not work,” says Teitelbaum. Zinc is usually found in high-protein foods like oysters, chicken and beef.
“By eating a diet higher in fruits and vegetables, increasing exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight, you can improve the overall function of your body, including your immune system,” says Sandy Younan Brikho, MDA, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and weight loss expert. “Research shows that consuming foods that are anti-inflammatory, containing antioxidants, and protein-rich could aid in improving immune function over time.”
Here, we’ve included a list of 15 foods that boost the immune system so you can incorporate them into your diet on your quest for better health.
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, another powerful immune booster. And it doesn’t take more than a small handful of almonds to get your recommended daily amount.
The rich orange color of sweet potatoes indicates that sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene, which can increase your body’s production of white blood cells, says Olivia Audrey, ND, board-certified doctor of natural medicine.
For a healthy and protective dose of zinc on the go, grab a handful of pumpkin seeds and enjoy a simple—and immune boosting—snack.
Used for centuries as a natural remedy for diseases of all types, garlic is a must-add to your diet during cold and flu season. One study found that use of a garlic supplement dramatically reduced the prevalence of colds among participants.
This versatile fruit is packed with antioxidants. You can use the seeds in a salad, or simply drink the juice for a similar effect.
Elderberries are a favorite immune-boosting food, since they contain antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation, says Brikho.
Similar to elderberries and cranberries, acai berries are high in antioxidants and will keep your immune system in top condition.
Protein-rich foods like beef, poultry, and eggs can help with T-cell function that kills infected host cells, says Brikho.
Made by simmering the bones and connective tissues of animals, bone broth is basically the gold standard of health-inducing foods. Among a host of other benefits, it’s said to increase immunity as well.
Rohit Shelatkar, VP at Vitabiotics, Fitness & Nutrition Expert is here to tell you all about immunity-boosting foods. Check it out
People are always more likely to get sick during the winter months, whether it is the threat of the common cold or the flu season, and now the novel coronavirus, sickness looms during the colder months. This is why it is extremely important for people to strengthen their immune defences during the winter. Thankfully, there is an array of winter foods that can help our bodies fight off infections and illness.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin A. They can keep the body stay warm while the high concentration of antioxidants, vitamin A and C, and minerals like iron and potassium can help fight off chronic diseases, reverse signs of ageing and even detoxify the body. One should consume sweet potatoes in salads, soups and cooked or stir-fried vegetables as part of a regular winter diet.
Jaggery is a super food that stimulates digestive enzymes and improves digestion because it helps to reduce acidity, bloating and gas. Jaggery also has a mild laxative effect which helps tackle constipation. Eating jaggery also helps to fight cough, cold, flu and other ailments that commonly occur in winter.
Berries are a great source of Vitamin C, an essential vitamin to support a healthy immune system. They contain antioxidants that can help to keep the immune system strong and can help to fight off respiratory infections that are common during the winter cold. Research has found that berries have antibacterial properties as well as anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects, which is why they should be a staple part of one’s diet during the winter months.
Dark greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli are wonderful additions to a diet. Leafy greens are high in Vitamins A, C and several antioxidants and this helps to naturally reduce inflammation that stems from running and heavy workouts.
Amla or Indian Gooseberry is another seasonal yet super nutritious food available during the winters. Amla contains about five times the vitamin C present in oranges. Hence, it is a great immunity booster and detoxing food.
Fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring are excellent sources of the omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which can help to reduce inflammation and activate certain immune cells. Fatty fish are also natural sources of zinc, selenium, and one of the few natural food sources of Vitamin D.
Eating a well-balanced diet is not the cure to ailments and disease, but it certainly helps to support the body’s immune system and boost overall energy levels. Nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids are known for their powerful impact on the immune system.
Every winter, people look for ways to protect themselves against colds, the flu, and other infections — and with a pandemic happening, having a strong immune system is even more important. This is especially true if you’re living with diabetes. Diabetes can affect your immune response, making you more susceptible to infections. There are several lifestyle habits that can help — things like consistent exercise, getting enough sleep, and minimizing stress. Controlling your blood sugar is also paramount in maintaining a strong immune response.
Looking for ways to boost your immune system? Consider adding in one of these eight immune-boosting foods to your daily meals.
Many people turn to vitamin C when they feel a cold coming on because it is known for promoting the production of white blood cells, which are necessary in fighting off infections. Fruits like grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and limes are wonderful sources of this powerhouse nutrient. Avoid citrus juices, which can raise your blood sugar. Opt for whole pieces of fruit instead to get the added benefits of fiber that aids in blood sugar regulation.
Many fermented foods, like yogurt, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, and sauerkraut, contain high levels of live, active cultures, which are the “good” bacteria that help protect the body from infection. In fact, these microorganisms are responsible for more than 75% of the immune system! Aim to eat a variety of probiotic-rich foods every day to enhance microbial diversity in your gut. Having an array of healthy gut microbes promotes optimal digestion and can boost immune response.
Nuts and Seeds
Vitamin E is another critical nutrient that helps to maintain immune system function. Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources of the vitamin. Nuts and seeds also contain healthy fats, protein, and fiber, which help regulate blood sugar.
Grandma’s favorite cold remedy may have some healing powers after all! Chicken is high in vitamin B6, which is essential in making antibodies and other chemical reactions in the body that improve immune response. Homemade stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones also contains nutrients that promote gut health and a healthy immune system.
Hot tea is known for soothing a sore throat when you are sick, but it can also contain a ton of immune-boosting nutrients. Green, black, and white tea varieties all contain flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body. Fresh ginger tea is another great option, as ginger is known to decrease inflammation and reduce blood sugars.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are not only good for making meals more flavorful, they are also loaded with antioxidants that fight viruses and bacteria. Garlic also contains unique sulfuric compounds that support the body’s natural detoxification systems.
Beans and other legumes, like peas and lentils, have many nutritional benefits for those living with diabetes. They contain high amounts of fiber, which provide a sustained source of energy without a spike in blood sugar.
Beans are also a great source of zinc, which is an essential mineral that needs to be eaten regularly since the human body does not store it. Zinc affects many aspects of the immune system and has also been shown to improve glycemic control in those living with diabetes.
Bell peppers are another excellent source of vitamin C and help eliminate free radicals from the body. Just 1 cup of sliced red bell pepper contains 130% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. And because bell peppers are a non-starchy vegetable, they have minimal impact on blood glucose levels, making them an excellent snack choice or addition to daily meals like scrambled eggs or a green salad.
With the pandemic still in full force combined with cold and flu season, trying to make sure your immune system is in tip-top shape is likely top of mind.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but adding in some vitamin C to your diet for good measure will help, too. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, supports the immune system and helps your body use the iron you get from food.
What is vitamin C?
First, let’s take a look at exactly what vitamin C is.
“Vitamin C is a plant-derived antioxidant that’s found predominantly in veggies and fruit,” explains Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN Head of Nutrition & Wellness at WW (Weight Watchers). “This class of compounds helps to support overall immune function and general well-being by protecting your body’s healthy cells from damage.”
The body also uses vitamin C to make collagen which is a springy type of connective tissue that makes up parts of your body and helps to heal wounds. “ If you don’t get enough or no vitamin C for weeks, you can get scurvy, a condition causing fatigue, gum inflammation and bleeding, joint pain, and poor wound healing,” adds Brenda Braslow, RD.“The daily recommended allowance for adult men is 90 mg per day and 75 mg per day for adult women,” she says.
The benefits of vitamin C
A diet that has the recommended amount of vitamin C can help prevent disease as we age. “Over time, a diet that provides antioxidants, including vitamin C, from plant foods can help to promote healthy cell function, and therefore, help to decrease risk of chronic disease on the whole,” says London. “Vitamin C helps protect vision by inhibiting the progression of cataracts and macular degeneration, it increases resistance to infection, colds, flu, and more,” explains Elizabeth Somer, MS, RDN,and Personal Nutrition Medical Advisory Board Member. She adds that vitamin C can also regulate cholesterol production, help lower blood pressure, and is important in the formation of the stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
There are all kinds of varieties of vitamin supplements in the pharmacy, but are they worth taking? “Most people get adequate vitamin C through their diet. Taking a daily multivitamin can also provide a little additional vitamin C, often about 100 mg per supplement, so an additional high dose vitamin C supplement is not necessary,” says Braslow. London agrees, adding that unless a physician has recommended it for the treatment of a medical condition, then adding in supplements will have little to no benefit. “Vitamin C belongs to a class of vitamins that are water soluble, meaning what your body can’t use, you’ll excrete through the urinary tract as well as your GI tract.”
Below, you’ll find a list of the very best dietitian-recommended vitamin C foods.
Best vitamin C foods
Braslow says 1 medium purple plum has 6 mg of vitamin C. It’s also rich in potassium, vitamin E and the antioxidant lutein.
¼ cup chopped green chili peppers has 91 mg of vitamin C, according to Barslow.
Sweet yellow peppers
The vitamin C content of sweet or bell peppers increases as they mature. “What makes this so great for those of us trying to eat more food sources of vitamin C is that it’s a perfect ingredient and condiment, but also easily adapted to be a snack in its own right,” says London. Just one-half cup of yellow peppers provides 137 mg of vitamin C.
“A half cup of sweet, sliced red peppers arguably has the mostvitamin C of any vegetable or fruit,” says London. She adds that it’s the perfect ingredient or condiment that can be adapted into a snack. “One half cup of peppers will provide up to 95 mg.”
Green bell peppers
One ounce of sauteed peppers provides up to 49.5 mg of Vitamin C.
Oranges or orange juice
One medium-sized orange provides up to 70mg of vitamin C which is 78% of the daily value. A mandarin orange has 24 mg. Start your day off with a glass of orange juice. Braslow says drinking 6 ounces of orange juice has 93 mg of vitamin C.
Braslow says half of a medium guava provides 63 mg of vitamin C. Guava fruit is also a great source of fiber.
“One teaspoon of dried thyme has 1 mg vitamin C,” says Braslow. Even just sprinkling a couple of tablespoons of fresh thyme over your meal adds up to 7 mg of vitamin C to your diet.
Two tablespoons of fresh parsley contain 10 mg of vitamin C, providing 11% of the recommended daily value.
A half cup of cooked spinach has 9 mg of vitamin C. There are a variety of spinach options including savoy spinach, flat spinach, and semi-savoy spinach.
“60% of the daily value for vitamin C per ½ cup, cooked serving of kale is up to four times what you’ll get from spinach,” says London. She suggests including it when sauteing, as a swap for romaine lettuce in sandwiches, or as part of a hearty winter soup.
“One medium kiwi packs 70% of the daily value for vitamin C,” says London. “ It’s a tasty and slightly-surprising addition to breakfast parfaits or eaten sliced as part of a snack.”
“One cup of broccoli packs up to 220% of the daily value for the nutrient and is easy to cook quickly in a saute pan with a little bit of garlic and olive oil or butter,” says London.
According to London, a ½ cup of cooked brussels sprouts packs 48 mg of vitamin C, which is about 53% of the daily value. “These are a great choice this time of year since you can drizzle olive oil and stick ‘em on a sheet pan for roasting. I’m also loving Brussels sprouts in the air-fryer.”
London says one way to shake things up and get your water and vitamin C in is to add lemons to your drink. “Per half cup, lemon juice will provide more than half of the DV for vitamin C and it also adds tangy tartness to an otherwise unflavored sparkling beverage.”
“All cruciferous veggies provide some vitamin C,” says London. Bok Choy is also rich in Vitamin K.
“Fresh or frozen, strawberries are a great source of vitamin C and provide up to 50% of the daily value for the nutrient per half cup,” says London. She suggests using it as a topping with plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt or as part of a dessert. You can also use it as a simple, lower-sugar swap for jelly on your peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“Tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin C and are easy to incorporate, from canned tomatoes used in sauce or stew to fresh tomatoes thrown into a quick chopped salad,” suggests London. She says one cup of cherry tomatoes packs up to 30% of your daily value of vitamin C.
Snap peas, as well as sugar snap peas, are a great source of vitamin C, providing 100% of the daily value in just 3.5 ounces.
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A cup of cubed cantaloupe contains over 200 mg of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
“A medium baked potato will provide about 30% of the daily value and is another go-to staple that’s easy to add as a side dish to meals, or, my personal favorite, as a quick and easy weeknight dinner of loaded baked potatoes with black beans, tomatoes, scallions, part-skim cheese, greek yogurt, and hot sauce,” says London. Braslow adds that you shouldn’t throw away the peel, which is packed with nutrients!
“A half cup of cooked cauliflower packs up to 1/3 of your [daily value] for vitamin C, and it’s easy to incorporate now more than ever in the form of frozen, pre-prepped cauliflower rice, which you can find in your produce aisle at your local grocery store, or in the freezer aisle, making it that much easier to add to instant-rice to slowly introduce veggies into more meals and snacks,” says London.
Half a grapefruit contains 44 mg of the recommended daily value.
Pineapples are rich in vitamin C, providing 131% of the daily recommendation.
Mangoes are naturally high in vitamin C and beta-carotene.One cup of sliced mango provides 60.1 mg of vitamin C.
Every winter, immunity becomes an important topic of conversation as the temperatures drop and we enter cold and flu season. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, having a strong immune system has become even more crucial to maintaining health. While this will not guarantee that you won’t get sick (or get the coronavirus), it is still worth doing whatever you can to keep your body healthy. We spoke with elite Canadian runner and registered dietitian Rachel Hannah to get her top food recommendations for runners who are looking to boost their immune systems and stay healthy this winter.
You’ve heard it before but it’s worth mentioning again: eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is a key component to maintaining a strong immune system, thanks to their antioxidant content. These nutrients improve the health of your gut microbiome, which plays a role in training your immune system and avoiding an excess inflammatory response to pathogens.
Hannah recommends eating as many colours as possible, especially leafy greens, because that will ensure you get all the antioxidants and phytochemicals necessary for proper immune function. When it comes to fruit, berries are at the top of her list thanks to their high density of antioxidants. During the winter, fresh berries may not always be available, but frozen berries are just as beneficial, and can often provide more nutrients than the fresh variety in the off-season.
Hannah also encourages runners to eat plenty of probiotic-rich foods because they help maintain a balanced composition of gut bacteria. Prolonged or intense training can disturb the gut and increase your risk for gastrointestinal (GI) problems, which will in turn affect your immune system.
Hannah’s favourite food sources of probiotics are yogurt and kefir, and she says that miso soup is a great choice for runners as well. Other probiotic-rich foods include buttermilk, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.
Whole grains including brown rice, wild rice, teff, barley and quinoa cannot be digested the same way other foods can. Instead, we rely on the microbiota in our digestive tract to break the fibre down into fatty acids. These fatty acids help maintain our gut mucus barrier, which keeps pathogens out of our system. Hannah says that whole grains also contain important nutrients for immune health, and she recommends that all runners include them as a regular part of their diet.
Hannah also points out the importance of vitamin D when it comes to immune health. While there are some food sources of vitamin D (such as fatty fish, fortified dairy products and fortified cereals), she explains that it is difficult to meet your daily requirement through food. For this reason, Hannah recommends runners take a supplement, since not only does it benefit your immune system, but vitamin D can help prevent other issues like fatigue, muscle pain, and stress fractures. Most health experts will recommend that adults 14 to 50 years old take 600 IU per day, however you should talk to your doctor to determine your specific needs, especially if you fall outside this age bracket.
Eating these foods will not guarantee that you won’t get sick, but they will reduce your risk of illness and improve your body’s ability to fight infections when they happen.