Can you feed your immune system?

Mon 11th May 2020
Covid No Frame

Seafish consultant nutritionist and registered dietitian Juliette Kellow sets the record straight on whether there’s anything we can eat to boost our immunity…

As the world battles coronavirus, the past few weeks have seen many things written about the immune-boosting properties of various nutrients and ingredients. Unfortunately, much has been inaccurate.

Despite what you might have read, there are no specific foods, diets or eating habits that will boost your immune system to treat COVID-19, or stop you getting it in the first place. Nor are there any supplements that can boost immunity or treat infections likes viruses. The best way to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 is to follow current government advice – to practice social distancing, self-isolating if necessary, and employing good hygiene, including frequent hand washing.

Many nutrients certainly contribute to the normal functioning of our immune system. These include vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D, folate, iron, zinc, copper and selenium. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods is the best way to ensure we get all the vitamins and minerals we need to support our immune system, as well as general good health.

Seafood is, of course, considered to be an important part of a healthy diet. Health guidelines recommend we eat two portions of fish each week, one of which is an oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, herring, kippers, salmon or trout. A portion should weigh around 140g when cooked (170g before cooking) and at a time when many people are self-isolating and shopping for food less often, it’s good to know that all types – fresh, frozen and tinned fish –count towards this.

Fish is a nutrient-rich food – in other words it provides a lot of nutrients for your calories. All varieties – white, oily or shellfish – provide protein and are rich in vitamin B12 and selenium. Most also contain phosphorus and vitamins B3 and B6. Oily fish are especially rich in omega-3 fats, which contribute to normal heart function and the maintenance of blood pressure. They are also one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D. Meanwhile, shellfish such as clams, cockles, crab, mussels and oysters provide iron, copper and zinc.

The key to benefiting from the range of nutrients in fish is to vary your choices and enjoy different types of seafood as part of a balanced, healthy diet.