You might be keeping yourself away from viruses and illnesses during lockdown but its also more important than ever to maintain a strong immune system and keep your body performing at maximum levels.
Conscious and planned decisions are required for that to be possible and with that in mind, here are a few tips which we think go a long way towards helping you achieve that.
1. Keep your energy levels topped up
Total energy intake is important for maintaining the immune system – to protect cells from oxidative damage, to produce and enable functioning of enzymes, and maintain proper structure and function of tissues. Both very high, and very low, energy intakes increase risk of infection and illness. Be smart about matching energy intakes to training and activity requirements. Get plenty of carbs, ideally in the form of fruits and vegetables and high quality protein for cell and hormone function. You should skip or minimize the refined foods and sugars, though, as these types of carbs can dampen mood and energy levels over time.
2. Your diet should be wide and colourful
Colour on the plate means a variety of nutrients. Antioxidants and polyphenols, vitamins A, C, D and E, B6 and B12 along with iron, zinc and selenium and adequate amino acids (proteins) are critical components for maintaining immune and cognitive health. If access to colour and fresh food becomes difficult, try and add spices and herbs – even dried ones bring not just flavour and interest to meals, but boost nutrients. Spices such as ginger, garlic and chili may even have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
3. Eat enough healthy fats
Fats are very important for staying healthy and happy. Any natural sources of fat are great such as avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, egg yolks, olive oil, coconut oil and even fats from pastured animals which contain surprising amounts of Omega 3 fats. When people think of food for energy, they usually tend to think of carbohydrates but fats are just as, if not better, sources of energy for the body.
4. Stay active
pay close attention to recovery nutrition: The good news for athletes is that regular exercise strengthens the immune system. However, exhaustive or intense training suppresses the immune system and the body’s ability to fight off illness and infection. This means the period after a workout is a critical time – practice good hygiene and make sur to eat and drink. A recovery snack or meal actually doubles as an immunity booster.
5. Gut health is very important
The majority of your immune system is located in your gut – keeping your gut healthy and maintaining the integrity of the mucosal barrier is critical for health, but also mental wellbeing, mood and cognitive function. Include probiotics such as kombucha, yoghurt, kefir, kimchee and miso to encourage a healthy gut microbiome as well as prebiotics such as green bananas, plantains, onions, garlic, resistant starches.