Supporting your immune system this winter | 9Lives
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We haven’t really talked a lot about the pandemic on 9Lives as of yet, and it most definitely is not because it hasn’t touched our lives, rather the opposite – it has affected every little corner of our lives that it actually becomes a bit overwhelming. As time went on, we realised that a few of us actually had questions on diet and supporting our immune system in this time in a natural and sustainable way.

I, therefore, checked in with Cecile de Klerk from Munchwize in Cape Town. She is a registered dietician, currently working in Kingsbury Hospital where she treats a variety of patients, including those who tested positive and are currently receiving in-hospital treatment. Our discussion focussed a lot on promoting a healthy, balanced diet that will support your immune system without breaking the bank.

E: We all know that the best way to aid your immune system is to increase your vitamin C intake. What is the easiest and most affordable way to increase your Vitamin C intake?

C: Vitamin C is associated with your immune system, because it is a powerful antioxidant. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C is 90 mg/day. The RDA can easily be achieved by having Vitamin C rich foods in your diet and it is therefore not necessary to spend money on supplements. A large orange or a cup of cooked broccoli will provide more than the RDA for Vitamin C. Other rich sources of Vitamin C include red pepper, kiwis, strawberries and cauliflower. Essentially all fresh fruit and veg contain Vitamin C but some are richer in Vitamin C than others.

E: Except for Vitamin C, are there any other Vitamins that are known to support the immune system?

C: To support your immune system further, a balance of all vitamins and minerals are important. The other particular nutrients that have been researched and that are now associated with immune support includes Zinc (found in beans, nuts, seeds and dairy, as well as animal proteins) and Vitamin D (found in salmon, sardines and egg yolk but also begotten from the sun, around 10 minutes daily).

E: With gut health being all the rage at the moment, how can we adapt our diet to promote gut health and ensure that our bodies are absorbing Vitamin C?

C: Fresh is always best, so aim to always buy fresh produce. Also, attempt to prioritise the planning of meals and especially snacks. Include a variety of vegetables and fruit to your diet and try to choose whole grains over refined carbohydrates. Probiotics can also aid in gut health and can be found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, yoghurt, kombucha and kimchi.

E: Are there any foods that promote respiratory health? I’ve heard that dairy can cause extra mucus in the respiratory tract?

C: There is no one nutrient that promotes lung health, the focus should be shifted towards a balance of all vitamins and minerals. One of these minerals is Calcium and since dairy is the richest source of Calcium, dairy should not be excluded from the diet unless an intolerance has been confirmed. If a person has to exclude dairy from the diet, a calcium supplement is essential, especially in women who have a higher risk for developing osteoporosis later in life. Research has shown that dairy might give the illusion of an increase in mucus production but this has been proven to be a myth.

E: If you, or someone in your household, does test positive for the virus, how can one’s diet be adapted to support and promote health?

C: Currently there is no specific nutrient that can prevent or treat COVID-19. Emphasis should be put on a balance of nutrients and vitamins, in other words, a balanced variety of foods. A healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet is your first line of defence. Include lots of vegetables and fruit in your diet, have fatty fish like salmon and sardines more often than red meats, choose whole grain products, include plant fats like nuts and seeds in your diet, reduce your intake of salt, refined sugar and highly processed foods, make water your beverage of choice and limit alcohol intake.

If you’d like to know more on the topic of diet and Covid-19, Munchwize will be hosting a webinar via Skype on supporting your immune system during the pandemic on 25 June 2020 at 5pm. Email to book a spot.

Looking to try more fresh produce? Try the Spier Farm Shop or Down to Earth’s organic plastic-free produce.


Free State-girl, living in Stellenbosch. Love to explore small towns, read in Afrikaans and everything pop-culture. My favourite yoga move is 'The Pigeon' and one day I'd like to own my own vintage cinema.

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