May 21, 2020
Can I boost my immune system through my diet?
In these extraordinary times, we frequently read headlines promising ways to 'supercharge your immune system' or 'strengthen your immunity' through diet, supplements, and other products. Despite all the claims, there is no good evidence that any specific food, supplement or natural health product will truly boost the immune system or fight infections, including COVID-19.
Is boosting my immune system a good idea?
As the body’s defense against foreign invaders, the immune system is a complex network of integrated parts working in harmony. If one part temporarily increases, another may be suppressed in order to keep the balance. When the system overreacts, it may attack not just the invaders but your own body as well, leading to inflammation or autoimmune disease.
Are specific nutrients helpful?
There are many nutrients involved in the normal functioning of the immune system and a healthy individual with access to a variety of foods does not need to supplement their diet. If someone is malnourished or has a significant deficiency of a single nutrient, providing proper nutrition or the particular nutrient may help strengthen their immune function. However, there is no evidence that taking extra of any particular vitamin or nutrient provides an ‘immune boost’ and it may potentially be harmful.
What can I do to support my immune system?
Although no food or supplement will boost your immunity, it is a good idea to engage in healthy behaviours that support your overall health. A varied diet rich in nutrients from fruits and vegetables, healthy protein and whole grains will help support the immune system and maintain proper immune function. Drinking plenty of water, eating regular meals made at home and enjoying food with others can also contribute to your health and well-being.
The Well-being Task Force
Faculty of Medicine
Get the Facts on the Immune System
Advice for the general public about COVID-19
Dietitians of Canada Cookspiration
Canada's Food Guide