Full and frank: how many supplements do you take daily? Is that stash of extra-strength vitamin C replenished regularly? Is it turmeric I can see on your bathroom shelf? What about the zinc-selenium-magnesium combo in awkwardly huge capsules? Add to that your omega-3 oil and probiotic tablets, no wonder you can never get to work on time in the morning.
And all this hard work your oesophagus does daily is pretty much for nothing. What’s more, a lot of those supplements can do more harm than good, and at best they are useless.
The same as with so called ‘detoxifying’ preparations, most supplements we swallow so eagerly are nothing compared to, respectively, our liver which cleans our body from toxins and our immune system which cleverly recognises when to fight and when to flight. Not all infection symptoms should be supressed since they are signs of our organism boxing clever with viruses or bacteria.
Fine, you’ll say: I’m laying off the turmeric but surely I can eat all those superfoods to boost my immune system? All the wonderful cereals with added vitamins, lattes with extra zinc, magic juice shots and energy bars? They must be worth the money and do me good, especially post-Covid?
Sadly, a lot of the claims on the packaging of those wonder products are porkies. Added vitamins and nutrients don’t make a sausage or sugary cereal healthy.
Touting a kefir drink ‘immune boosting’ is misleading – drinking fermented drinks is part of a healthy diet but there’s no way a pint of kefir will make you immune to the next virus coming along.
The solution? Boringly, a varied diet with lots of plants, plenty fibre, naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients is where your money should go, rather to the snake (omega) oil merchants. It’s all in the gut: feeding our gut bacteria and encouraging them to go forth and multiply is the way to support your immune system.
Fermented foods are certainly gut-friendly, but you can easily make a jar of sauerkraut or kimchi instead of paying a fortune for flashy probiotic drinks. Fermented cabbage is also naturally rich in vitamin C. And if you’re really not the kind of person who makes preserves, at least have the spring cabbage salad, which features lightly fermented cabbage, at least once a week. Plus good news: red wine is beneficial for your gut.
Then there are wholegrains which are a massage brush for the gut. If you’re a bread baker, go for the light rye seeded loaf or the best of the gut brushes, Borodinsky rye bread. If you’re only a muffin person, the banana bran muffins are pretty good too thanks to bran.
Instead of omega-3 capsules of dubious benefit, increase the amount of oily fish you eat. Tinned sardines or mackerel will make as good a sandwich filler as tuna, and twice as healthy (not least for the environment). Mackerel is not just good for your body but for your wallet too: grilled whole, stuffed with olives or pan fried with sticky chilli sauce. Keep dairy in your diet – the pear, pumpkin and halloumi salad is a triple boon, as is whipped feta with hazelnuts and tomatoes.
If you have eggs for breakfast, salmon pate on wholemeal bread for lunch and a spicy bavette steak for dinner, it will be a full-day dose of vitamin D, naturally ingested. That’s right: red meat every now and then is better for you than bland chicken every day.
This is just a handful of ideas that might be helpful to support your natural immunity (remember: it’s not to magically boost it). Now go and ditch those supplements! Happy cooking!