The novel corona virus pandemic found the world unprepared to combat it at the start, but mostly because it was unprecedented, not that the world had never faced a pandemic, but that this was a new strain. It was new and highly virulent and would cause a lot of damage before the world and its great scientists found a solution. However, it taught us a valuable lesson which is the importance of immunity to help the body remain steadfast in time when ailments threaten our health.
We were reminded of the importance of vitamins in supporting our natural immunity and also the natural sources where to find them because good health ought not to be too expensive. Since the sources of these vitamins and minerals are widely abundant in nature, even in the remotest of areas, they are easily accessible and it’s important that we know where to find them in the food we eat. We will discuss these vitamins first and then minerals later. The eight vitamins and minerals that come to the fore when it comes to immunity are:
- Vitamin C
It’s also known ascorbic acid found in food and sold as a dietary supplement. It’s important for the immune system as a requirement in the functioning of several enzymes. It’s an important anti-oxidant to help the body get rid of harmful free radicals. It’s also important to treat and prevent scurvy as a disease. It helps repair tissue and enzymatic production of certain neurotransmitters. Vitamin C is largely provided by plant sources as most of the animal vitamin C is destroyed by the heat of cooking.
Common sources of Vitamin C include: Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, Broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant that protects cell membranes from reactive oxygen species, in its antioxidant actions; it’s likened to Vitamin C in that they are both important in eliminating free radicals. Vitamin E deficiency is rare and may only be seen in cases of mal-absorption of dietary fat. Its deficiency can cause nerve problems such as retinopathy, myopathy, and neuropathy.
Sources of Vitamin E include: Sunflower oil, Almonds, Palm oil, Peanut oil, Olive oil.
- Vitamin A
It’s a group of organic compounds that include retinol and pro-vitamin A carotenoids such as beta-carotene. It’s important for good vision. Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most prevalent vitamin deficiencies affecting approximately a third of children under the age of five. The use of beta-carotene form of Vitamin A greatly lowers the risk of toxicity which is common with other forms of Vitamin A, toxicity which is labeled as hyper-vitaminosis is fatal.
Sources of Vitamin A include: Cod liver oil, sweet potato, Carrot, Pumpkin, beef pork and turkey liver.
- Vitamin D
This is very important in increasing intestinal absorption of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphate. The most common forms of Vitamin D are D3 (Cholecalciferol) and D2 (Ergocalciferol). The most common source is synthesis under the skin sue to sun exposure. It can also be ingested in diet but only a few foods such as flesh of fatty fish carry the vitamin. However, many foods are now fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency leads to rickets in children and Osteomalacia in adults
- Folic acid (Vitamin B9)
This is part of the B vitamins group and is important metabolism of amino acids necessary for cell division and is also required to make DNA and RNA. The human body does not make folic acid and so it is gotten from external sources through diet and daily supplements. It’s used to treat anemia among other conditions and it’s also used as a supplement during pregnancy to reduce risk of neural tube defects in babies. Folic acid deficiency leads to feeling tired, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, open tongue sores and changes in hair and skin color.
Sources of Folic acid include: Peanuts, Spinach, Soybeans, and Lettuce.
Some foods are fortified with folic acid.
In the next article, we review some of the minerals that are important in supporting the body’s immunity to make up our total of eight.