Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet is always important. It is especially important in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic. In this blog, we highlight the importance of nutrition for maintaining a healthy immune system and some of the best immune-boosting vegan foods you can add to your diet today.
The immune system and nutrition
The immune system consists of the organs, cells, tissues and proteins that carry out the processes that fight off pathogens, which are the viruses, bacteria, and foreign bodies that cause infection or disease. 
Optimal nutrition supports the functions of immune cells allowing them to initiate effective responses against pathogens and to avoid any underlying chronic inflammation. 
Some micronutrients and dietary components have very specific roles in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system throughout the life course or in reducing chronic inflammation. For example:
- The amino acid arginine is essential for the generation of nitric oxide by macrophages. 
- Vitamin A and zinc regulate cell division and so are essential for a successful proliferative response within the immune system. 
- Several cells of the immune system can accumulate vitamin C and need the vitamin to perform their task, especially phagocytes and t-cells (immune cells). 
- Vitamin E has been shown to enhance immune responses and to confer protection against several infectious diseases by reducing inflammation and improving the response of the body's immune cells.
Foods to boost your immune system
The following foods are high in the micronutrients and macronutrients that support the immune system.
Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C, which plays an important role in improving the strength of our immune system. It’s been shown to help boost the number of white blood cells in the body while also improve white blood cell function.
All citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, but oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and pomelos contain especially high concentrations of it.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens contain essential nutrients like magnesium and vitamin K, which our bodies need to function optimally and fight off infections. They also contain antioxidants, which can help to reduce inflammation and cellular damage caused by free radicals.
Greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are all great options to include in a vegan diet on a regular basis.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that boost the immune system.
Sunflower seeds, for example, contain magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. Sesame seeds are good sources of vitamin E, too, as well as iron and zinc, both of which play important roles in keeping our immune systems functioning. Almonds also have high levels of immune-boosting Vitamin E.
Carrots, Turmeric and Sweet Potatoes
Carrots, sweet potatoes (kumara), turmeric and other plants with a deep orange colour contain beta carotene. Studies have concluded that beta carotene can enhance cell-mediated immune responses, particularly in the elderly. 
There is strong epidemiologic evidence that diets rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene are associated with a reduced incidence of cancer. 
You can read more about the many benefits of turmeric in our blog 'Tooting the Turmeric Trumpet'.
Prebiotic & Probiotic Foods
The majority of immune cells within the human body are found within the gut-associated lymphoid tissue, reflecting the importance of this immune tissue in maintaining host health. 
The composition of the gut microbiome can be improved by consuming prebiotic and probiotic foods. You can read more about the importance of prebiotics and probiotics for gut health in our blog 'Prebiotics or Probiotics - What is Your Gut Feeling'
Prebiotics are the fermentable dietary fibres present in fruits, vegetables, legumes and seeds which selectively feed beneficial bacteria in the intestinal microbiota, to maintain a healthy microbiome environment. At Amino Mantra we focus strongly on prebiotics. We use minimally processed certified organic vegetables combined with legumes and seeds provide good carbohydrates & dietary fibres for gut health and overall wellbeing.
Probiotics contain live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Fermented foods and drinks such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain probiotics and should be part of your diet if you want to stay healthy year-round. These foods contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help to promote a healthy gut.
Prebiotics and probiotic foods work best together, which is why we teamed up with our friends at zeLi! Saurcraut to offer the $45 gut health pack, which contains 2 packs of Amino Mantra patties and 2 packs of zeLi! Saurcraut (no longer available).
Many vegans love quinoa due to its high protein content (as well as the fact that it’s a complete protein). In addition to being a good protein source, quinoa is very beneficial to the immune system.
Quinoa contains minerals like iron and magnesium to keep the immune system functioning well. It also is a good source of fibre, which is beneficial for promoting good digestion and keeping the gut healthy.
Another good plant-based protein and fibre source, lentils have plenty more to bring to the table when it comes to strengthening one’s immune system.
Their selenium content, in particular, makes them an excellent immune-boosting food. There is some research that suggests selenium can increase the body’s production of t-cells. T-cells help to fight off invaders and kill disease before it can spread throughout the body.
Improve Your Body’s Natural Defenses Today
Choosing a vegan diet for starters goes a long way towards creating a healthy immune system, by removing some of the common causes of inflammation. By adding more of the foods that contain the micro and macronutrients that assist immune health, you'll give yourself the best chance of remaining health in the current environment.
If you need help fitting in more healthy foods and want to simplify the meal prep process, we’re here for you at Amino Mantra. Our plant-based patties are loaded with nutrient-dense ingredients and are free from preservatives, common allergens, and artificial additives. today.