The Top 3 Immune Boosting Foods and Supplements to Fight Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Coronavirus fears are widespread, and with good reason. The virus is growing at what feels like an exponential rate as each person with it passes it along to two or more others. In fact, the rate of infection is between 25% and 35%. And while scientists are working around the clock to create a vaccine, there’s no reason not to boost your immunity as best you can.
Plants can help, as can seeds, nuts and grains. Check out these immune-boosting herbs, mushrooms, vitamins and yes, supplements (though in general, The Beet believes you should try to get your nutrients from whole foods). And remember: always talk with your doctor before adding supplements or any over-the-counter product to your diet. And just to reiterate the best advice: The best way to prevent the spread of infection is to regularly wash your hands!
1. Chaga mushrooms
These little numbers are powerful fungus pods that grow on birch trees and offer super-immune boosting compounds, according to experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. This Northern Hemisphere mushroom may help to stimulate the immune system. With a rich history of use throughout Siberian and Russian folk medicine, Chaga mushrooms have recently been studied for their ability to kill cancer cells, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity.
Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) grow as a type of fungus on the bark of birch trees in cold climates, such as Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada, and Alaska. They look like clumps of burnt charcoal in the trees, but inside they are soft and burnt orange in color.
The Chaga mushroom comes with some other benefits as well, like increased mental performance. But be sure to check in with your doc before taking, especially if you take any medications that are high in oxalates. Want to give Chaga a try? Check out what the folks at Four Sigmatic are up to. The company mixes Chaga (and Astragulus, another immune-booster) into coffee so you can get the benefits right in your morning cuppa.
2. Vitamin C from Citrus, Peppers & Supplements
Chemist Linus Pauling was convinced vitamin C was a cure-all. He spent decades researching and testing the nutrient in large doses on himself. And while taking “megadoses” may not be necessary even in the face of coronavirus fears, you can boost your immunity with an increase of vitamin C.
First, get it from fruits like citrus, papaya and veggies like red bell peppers and dark leafy greens like spinach. If you are still feeling that you could use a C boost, find the most natural supplements your can, like sucking on vitamin C lozenges (Whole Foods sells them in big bottles) or check out Emergen-C. These are great little packets that turn into fizzy drinks once you mix with water. Perfect for airplanes or in the office.
3. Green Tea for Antioxidants
A number of studies point to EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), an antioxidant in green tea, as having super immune-boosting properties. Green tea is also loaded with L-theanine, an amino acid that helps the body fight off germs. Green tea’s been touted as a cancer preventative and may also be your ally in protection from coronavirus or other infections.
Substitute your afternoon coffee or latte for a clean, unadulterated green tea, and make sure it's green, or chamomille, but not black tea, since the way black tea is processed kills the active ingredient that makes green tea so uniquely powerful as an immune booster. Even if there is just a placebo effect, drinking green tea will signal to your body: I am taking care of myself. That has calming effects of its own.
For the 13 Best Foods to Boost Your Immunity, read The Beet's guide here. For foods that fight your anxiety about coronavirus, and everything else, read The Beet's mood-boosting foods that cure your anxiety.
The berries and flowers of this potent plant are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that shield and boost the immune system. A 2014 study by Natural Standard Research Collaboration found that subjects who took elderberry while sick recovered faster and had less severe symptoms than subjects who were administered a placebo.
The berry can be found in many vitamins, lozenges, teas and syrups and can also be bought in bulk and dried, although ensure you know how to handle the fruit because the seeds, roots, bark and leaves are all toxic and will need to be handled properly. Read up on the dangers associated with the berry here before you order the berry in bulk, or opt for a store-bought elixir or gummy vitamin to reap the benefits.
Zinc is an essential mineral that boosts immune system response by building T lymphocyte cells, which protect the body from infection. Zinc can be found in a range of plant-based foods, including legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains and vegetables such as potatoes, kale and green beans. It can also be taken in supplement form.
Since the most bioavailable forms of zinc are found in meats and seafood, a person on a plant-based or vegan diet may want to consider adding this mineral into their routine with a supplement, which is widely available in pharmacies and grocery stores.
6. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is widely regarded for its skin benefits, but it is also an important nutrient to maintain and protect your immune system. In a 2014 study by the Department of Internal Medicine, it was concluded that the "supplementation of vitamin E significantly enhances both cell-mediated and humoral immune functions in humans, especially in the elderly and animals."
The best ways to up your Vitamin E intake are by eating more nuts and seeds like peanuts and sunflower seeds and upping your intake of vegetables like avocados, beets, butternut squash and swiss chard.
7. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is known to increase immune responses, especially in individuals who are critically ill. Women need around 1.2mg per day, whereas men need 1.4mg per day. To boost your intake naturally, whole grains, carrots, spinach, bananas, peanuts and sweet potatoes are all great sources.
Spirulina is a biomass of cyanobacteria that grows in fresh and saltwater and is considered a blue-green algae. This protein-dense microbe helps reduce inflammation and promotes cell regeneration and also has powerful antioxidant properties.