By Kathryn McLean

During this overwhelming wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are trying to stay healthy. Not only stay healthy, but boost their immune system and improve their health in the hopes of warding off any illness.

I did a little research to see what you can do to help your immune system take care of you. Yes, I checked the internet: I relied on medical sites like that of the Mayo Clinic and medically reviewed sites, the Government of Canada website, and Dietitians of Canada, a professional organization of registered dietitians. I also turned to cookbooks and health-focused books written by doctors and other professionals with qualifications in health sciences.

First off, the immune system is your body’s defence system to fight bacteria, viruses and irritants. A healthy immune system is supported by plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and regular exercise.

It’s important to know that strengthening and/or maintaining a healthy immune system is beneficial for overall health, but will not prevent a person from contracting COVID-19 or other viruses. Your immune system fights bacteria, including viruses, but cannot keep you entirely germ-free.

So what can you do to support your immune system? Eat healthy foods, get adequate sleep, and engage in regular physical activity: taking walks, going for bike rides, or maintaining an exercise routine all count.

It’s also important to maintain strong mental health. Stay in touch with friends and family via phone calls and video chats. Reach out to those who live alone or may feel isolated; stay in touch and both of you will be supporting your emotional health. 

The Dietitians of Canada website stresses that you should “support” your immune system. This includes a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, protein and whole grains. They encourage eating a variety of these foods and advise against consuming processed foods.

Here is a list of highlighted foods that support, strengthen or help to strengthen immune systems:

  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Citrus fruits
  • Soybeans
  • Apples
  • Nuts
  • Yogurt

Foods that are good sources of iron, calcium or fibre are also important for supporting the immune system.

Examples of iron-rich foods include: red meat, beans, dried fruits, lentils and tofu.

Good sources of calcium include: dairy, green leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified beverages.

For good sources of fibre, consider: whole grains such as oats, brown rice and quinoa; whole wheat pasta and wholegrain bread; raspberries, avocado and pears; lentils and chickpeas; and chia seeds.

As I said, supporting your immune system will not prevent you from contracting Covid-19. But staying healthy is always a good idea, and no one wants to be sick now, with the COVID-19 virus or any other illness.

Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including a good diet, exercise, sleep and strong mental health. This combination promotes overall health. Stay safe!