Micronutrients play a very crucial role in the immunity functioning and overall health wellbeing. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all cure yet for the treatment of COVID-19; however adequate levels of micronutrients through food and diet can help to improve the immune responses to infection and disease.
A multiple number of nutrition research studies have indicated that micronutrient deficiencies can impair immune function and increase the susceptibility to infectious diseases. Another collective nutrition research study explained how deficiencies in different micronutrients may be making people more susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
What are Micronutrients?
The term micronutrients are used to describe vitamins and minerals in general. Macronutrients on the other hand include proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Your body requires smaller amounts of micronutrients relative to macronutrients and hence they are labelled as â€œmicroâ€ Micronutrients are vital for growth, immune function, brain development and many other essential functions of the body. Depending on their function, certain micronutrients also play a role in preventing and fighting infectious diseases. An adequate intake of all micronutrients is necessary for optimal health as each micronutrient has a specific role to play in our body.
Following are a few micronutrients which play an important role in immunity enhancement:
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin well known for its role in supporting a healthy immune system. Research shows Vitamin C is essential for growth and repair of tissue all over the body. Vitamin C helps in wound healing, repairs and maintains healthy bones, teeth, skin and cartilage (a type of firm tissue that covers the bones). As an antioxidant, Vitamin C fights against free radicals in the body which helps to prevent or delay certain cancers, heart diseases and promotes healthy ageing.
Sources of Vitamin C are abundant and many fruits and vegetables supply this important mineral. Sources include â€“ amla, citrus fruits, bell peppers, guava, kiwi, broccoli, berries, tomatoes and lemons etc.
Did you know?
Vitamin C helps the body to absorb non-heme iron â€“ the kind from plant foods such as beans, spinach, and quinoa. Combine Vitamin C rich foods with iron rich plant foods in the same meal.
Vitamin E is also a potent antioxidant known to improve immune functions. Its main role is to act as an antioxidant scavenging loose electrons â€“ so called free radicals â€“ that can damage cells. It prevents clots from forming in heart and arteries
Vitamin E protects the integrity of cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals and has the potential to influence both innate and adaptive immunity. To avoid the effects of Vitamin E deficiency â€“ eat plenty of nuts and seeds like almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, Cashewnut, sunflower seeds and oil, almonds, safflower oil, peanuts.
Vitamin A plays a crucial role in the regulation of innate immune response and cell- mediated immunity. Studies published indicated that Vitamin A deficiency leads to increased susceptibility to infection via the eyes, respiratory and the gastro-intestinal tract.
Beta carotene is a plant compound that the body converts into Vitamin A, a micronutrient that plays an important role in eye health and maintenance. Vitamin A is also known to enhance immunity by regulating anti-bacterial and antiinflammatory immune responses to infectious diseases. Foods which contain good amounts of Vitamin A include â€“ Carrots, pumpkin, squash, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, mango, apricots and much more
Vitamin D enhances immunity by regulating the body's anti-microbial response. It helps in calcium absorption and bone development. Vitamin D activates the bodyâ€™s inflammatory responses to infection, thus reducing the risk of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Damaged immune cells have greatly shown to react positively to higher concentrations of Vitamin D. Food Sources of Vitamin D are cod liver oil, salmon, sardine, mushrooms, eggs, tuna, mackerel, and whole grain oats.
There is little zinc storage in our body, which means that inadequate intakes can lead to deficiency which is associated with compromised immune function. Zinc has powerful antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the risk and duration of respiratory tract infections. Excellent sources of zinc include pork, beef, chicken, beans, nuts, unprocessed cheese, raw milk and plain yoghurt
Selenium reduces inflammation and prevents cellular damage caused by free radicals, hence reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Selenium also has powerful anti-viral effects against respiratory infections like influenza and asthma. Selenium can be found in a variety of foods including beans, nuts, legumes, fatty fish, unprocessed dairy products, fruits, plain yoghurt, whole grain oats, mushrooms, seeds and barley.
Folate, a B complex vitamin, aids in a variety of body functions including immunity, metabolism and DNA synthesis. Folate facilitates cell growth and development. It helps in wound healing and stimulates tissue repair. Folate also helps to increase the production of antibodies that identify disease causing pathogens. Common sources of folate include- leafy greens, beans, legumes, avocadoes, broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, beets and nuts.
Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, a protein molecule which transports oxygen throughout the body. But iron also boosts the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells that combat pathogens and prevent infection. There are two kinds of naturally occurring iron in foods that are absorbed and handled differently by our bodies â€“ The two forms of dietary iron are heme iron and non-heme iron Heme iron is found only in meat, poultry, seafood and fish, so heme iron is the type of protein that comes from animal proteins in our diet. Non-heme iron, by contrast, is found in plant-based foods like grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Non heme iron is also found in animal products such as eggs or milk/dairy products.
â€œMake sure to include a combination of these essential micronutrients in your daily food routine as increasing the intake through diet will help to enhance our overall immunity and combat infectiousâ€