Bolster Your Immune System With These Foods During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Dr. Paul Dabney

In the midst of COVID-19, we hear frequently about the importance of sheltering at home, practicing social distancing when in public, washing our hands, and other protective health measures. But how can we be even more proactive in defending ourselves against this pandemic virus? A powerful way is to pay special attention to our daily diet, especially consuming foods that are high in antioxidants, which research shows can strengthen the immune system against infectious diseases like COVID-19, says Dr. Paul Dabney, NMD, MPH, M.Ed.

Green Leafy Vegetables-— Leafy vegetables (e.g., kale, lettuce, and spinach) are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that help in the healing respiratory infections and protect the body against infectious agents.

Mushrooms—Mushrooms (such as Shiitake, Reishi, and Turkey tails ) contains a specific compound called beta-glucans, which is responsible for immunomodulatory properties, protect against bacteria and viruses, lower inflammation, and reduce phlegm.

Matcha Green Tea–As you are drinking your daily cup of matcha green tea, you are supplying your body with powerful compounds to fight bacterial and viral infections and lower stress levels. For example, matcha contains an amino acid called theanine, which reduces stress. It is important to understand that high stress levels can suppress your immune system, leaning you vulnerable to pathogenic attacks.

What makes matcha a great immune booster than regular green tea? It contains over 100 times more antioxidants, which helps in boosting the immune system. To harness more positive benefits of matcha, researchers suggest you add citrus juice to increases bioavailability of antioxidants by more than 5 times!

Citrus Foods-— Citrus food (such as oranges, lemons, berries, kiwi, broccoli, bell peppers) are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, both of which can support the immune system and lower inflammatory response, thus, promoting a speedy recovery.

Foods High in Zinc—Zinc is an amazing mineral because is not only capable of reducing the severity and duration of viral infections, but it can significantly impact on supporting the immune system, promote healing, reduce inflammation, and lower anxiety. Foods high in zinc are beef, shrimp, eggs, shellfish, cooked greens, pinto beans, flax and pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas.

Foods High in Selenium—Selenium acts as an antioxidant that binds free radicals to protect cells against oxidative stress and degeneration, and can modulate the immune system. Fresh garlic, Brazil nuts, yellow fin tuna, pork, beef, mushrooms, and oatmeal are some examples of foods high in selenium. 

The Power of Lectin Proteins—–In an article in the journal BioMed Research International (2018), researchers Mazalovska and Kouokam provide compelling information on the anti-viral properties of lectins. These are carbohydrate-binding proteins found in bananas and other fruits, and also in many other plant foods such as beans, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, lentils, and grains. Lectins, the scientists report, were found to prevent viral transmissions ranging from HIV, Ebola, hepatitis C, herpes simplex virus type 2, influenza viruses, to the COVID-19 infection.

Ginger—-Ginger is well known for its anti-nausea abilities and improving digestion. However, ginger also has unique properties that can be supportive against COVID-19, including alleviating respiratory symptoms, boost immune support to fight viral and bacterial infection, and lowering inflammation.

Bone Broth— Bone broth is the end result when you slowly boil bones and tissue from such sources as beef, chicken or lamb for a long period of time. The process may not sound appealing, but bone broth is packed with health nutrients and an essential (body does not make) amino acid called L-Glutamine. This amino acid is responsible for modulating the immune system in the gut (70-80 % of immune system is in the gut), reducing inflammation, healing damaged tissue, and lowers stress. If you do not want to make your own bone broth, you can purchase it from your local store.

Foods Rich in Quercetin–Quercetin is a type of bioflavonoid or antioxidant that can be found in high amounts in leafy green vegetables, oregano, chili peppers, buckwheat, citrus fruits, apples, peppers, red onions, and broccoli. Quercetin can be effective towards COVID-19 because it stabilizes the immune response and lowers inflammation. Most importantly, recent research studies by Khaerunnisa et al (2020) has shown quercetin can serve as excellent antiviral agent by preventing coronaviruses from docking and entering cells; therefore, this powerful bioflavonoid can offset the formation of a cytokine storm—- a severe, and often fatal, inflammatory condition where organs (e.g., lungs and kidney) are flooded with immune cells in response to a pathogenic infection. 

As many of us are homebound these days, do not forget to spend quality time outdoors each day to increase your intake of Vitamin D3 from sunlight.


About Dr. Paul Dabney

Dr. Dabney earned his doctorate degree in Naturopathic Medicine from Kingdom College of Natural Health. He also holds Master’s degrees in Science Education from Arizona State University and Public Health Epidemiology (emphasis in infectious disease) from Walden University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from The Ohio State University. Currently, he is a Ph.D candidate in Public Health Epidemiology at Walden University, and has thriving practice based in Decatur, GA.

His 20 years of teaching, clinical research, and medical experiences are supported by his work at the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Michigan State University School of Veterinary Medicine, U.S. Army Medical Corps, and as an adjunct professor at several naturopathic educational institutions.

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