Immune System… the Guardian Angel

Suggestions by Registered Dietitian Zhan Otto

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus in South Africa and the approaching flu season, we asked Zhan to give us some advice. Zhan, explains the beneficial effects that your diet has on your immune system and how you can maximize this.

About Zhan:

Zhan is a registered dietitian, in private practice for almost 18years, specializing in Medical Nutrition Therapy, and consulting from her rooms at Mediclinic Morningside.

Zhan sees patients in the wards as well as in her rooms, regarding a wide spectrum of nutrition-related, medical concerns such as GIT disorders, Kidney Injury, Diabetes, Fertility, Pregnancy, Pre and Post Surgery, Food Intolerances and Allergies, Rheumatoid conditions, sensible Weight Management, Eating Disorders and Oncology

Despite the complexity of the nutrition – immune function interaction, increasing consensus is being achieved regarding the beneficial effects diet, foods and specific nutrients have on the immune system.

What can you do to maximize your child’s Immune system? Make sure that your child’s antioxidant status is good.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals (phytochemicals), vitamins, minerals that fight ‘free radical” (unstable molecules that damage cells)
Antioxidants protect because they “give up their own molecules to stabilize or quench the free radical before it does too much damage.”

Interestingly, the antioxidants are actually the natural pigments that give vegetables and fruits their colours! So… a plateful of colourful food will automatically improve your child’s immune system.

At least 5x or more portions per day are advised.
Portion sizes need to be adjusted according to factors such as your child’s age, weight, and physical activity.

Examples of some Great Antioxidants / Phytochemicals in Foods

Name of Nutrient: Examples of Food Sources:
Vitamin C is the master immune-boosting nutrient guavas; oranges, naartjies, kiwi, broccoli, peppers
Beta – carotene strawberries, papaya, cherries, grapes, raspberries, blueberries
Organosulfuric compounds onions, leeks, chives, spring onions, garlic, cabbage
Omega-3 fatty acids sardines, pilchards, tuna, salmon
Lycopene tomatoes, fresh and cooked, pink grapefruit, watermelon
Lutein / Zeaxanthin spinach, avocado, asparagus, turnip greens
Sulphoraphanes / Indoles spinach, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips
Vit E sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts, peanutbutter, avocado
Zinc fish, oysters, lean beef, chicken leg, pork loin, pumpkin seeds, eggs, dried beans

Information provided by Zhan Otto

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