Our Victorian Institute of Sport Nutrition team has put together some tips and ideas that summarise some key nutrients and foods that can help strengthen your immune system during this tough time.
So, what should you be eating for a strong immune system?
Firstly, make sure that you are eating enough! Our immune systems need enough energy to make immune cells, so Under-fuelling will most certainly compromise your immune system! Adequate carbohydrate before training is important and during long sessions, topping up with carbs during the session will help to limit immune function depression. Consider a sports drink, gel, banana or other fruit, simple sandwich or muesli bar.
Here’s some nutrients and foods that might help too:
- Vitamin C - all it takes is one serve of citrus type fruit daily, that’s an orange, kiwi fruit, berries or even a tomato or 1/2 a capsicum. Higher doses (1000mg) may reduce duration and severity of symptoms if they do appear
- Zinc - found in lean red meat, poultry & seafood as well as nuts & legumes is a mineral important for immune function
- Iron - ensuring your iron levels don’t drop too low is also important for immune function. If you are feeling fatigued, a blood test may be worthwhile to check your levels. And include some red meat if you can.
- Vitamin A - think all those bright orange fruits and veggies such as rockmelon, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot.
- Vitamin D - plays a role in a healthy immune system so try to maintain some sun exposure every day.
- Probiotics - not only will they keep your gut healthy but are also likely to assist your immune function too, so including yoghurt, kefir and fermented foods like sauerkraut may be worth considering
- Herbs, garlic & ginger – not only add a delicious aroma and flavour to meals, but also contribute important phytochemicals and may offer immune benefits, anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.
Variety is super important to ensure that you get as wide a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as possible. The enzymes in our body rely on different vitamins and minerals to function properly, so this means we need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to look after them! (So, lots of different fruits and vegetables every day is key).
And before eating these nutrient rich foods, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and give your fruit & veg a good rinse.