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The diet that strengthens the immune system against respiratory tract infections

September 01, 2020
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The diet that strengthens the immune system against respiratory tract infections

A healthy organism is the first weapon to prevent diseases and their possible complications, even in the case of the novel coronavirus. In general, it is important to combat chronic inflammation and ensure an adequate supply of nutrients so that the immune system can react promptly but also without excess. This applies not only to COVID-19 but also to any type of external aggression. This is why a research approved a few days ago in the British Journal of Nutrition and carried out by a Brazilian team (Ana Heloneida de Araújo Morais et al, British Journal of Nutrition, Aug 2020) is so interesting. In fact, the research focused on the bad and healthy dietary habits to strengthen the immune system against every external aggressions and, more in particular, against novel coronavirus.

How we live and what we eat can affect our health more than we think. In fact, a diet that is not varied and that does not guarantee a daily intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can inhibit the immune response and make us susceptible to infections, just like that caused by the novel coronavirus. Not only that, obesity causes an increase in inflammation levels, which weakens the body and the immune system, and increases an enzyme, called ACE2, to which the novel coronavirus binds to attack the cell. But stress and lack of sleep can also contribute to the triggering of chronic inflammation. Both diet and lifestyle are all conditions on which we can act. In fact, the Western-style diet rich in saturated fat and sugar has shown to increase inflammation, thus undermining the health of the immune system. On the other hand, favoring certain foods capable of providing beneficial substances is considered protective, putting the body in the best conditions to deal with any aggression, even the novel coronavirus. Vitamin A, contained in sweet potatoes, carrots and leafy greens, helps prevent viral infections. Vitamin C is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and helps strengthen the body in the fight against external aggressions. Vitamin C is found in red peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes and lemons. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with conditions such as asthma and its presence is protective against acute lung infections. One of the simplest and most convenient natural sources of vitamin D is the sun, clearly taken with due care. Vitamin E fights respiratory tract infections and is contained in nuts, seeds, spinach, broccoli and some vegetable oils such as soy and sunflower oils.

Even some mineral salts have been shown to be protective and capable of helping to fight respiratory infections. Among them, the study indicates zinc, contained in lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds, seeds and nuts, selenium, contained in nuts, especially Brazilian nuts and poultry. Finally, it is important not to miss foods rich in omega 3, such as flax seeds, chia seeds, salmon and anchovies, and the famous probiotics, so yoghurts that show their probiotic content on the label, but also sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and kefir.

Of course, diet and lifestyle are just one piece of the puzzle in the fight against novel coronavirus. Is then important also to follow all the rules and the hygiene misures.

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