Immune boosting fruits, vegetables, and other plants that can help you shun the threats of COVID-19 

Photo by Shivam Patel from Pexels.

By Vina Medenilla

Now more than ever, it is a crucial time to keep our bodies’ defenses strong and alive. With the absence of a cure for COVID-19, we must prevent contracting the virus by strengthening our immunity.

Top vegetables that hold the highest vitamins

Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, MD, MPH, CMA, chairman of Health Futures Foundation, shares highly nutritious fruits and vegetables that can strengthen one’s health against COVID-19 during a webinar on Traditional Medicine in the management of COVID-19 streamed via Philippine Association for Chinese Studies’ Facebook page. 

These vegetables include malunggay, cassava and taro leaves, saluyot, kulitis or uray (Amaranthus Viridis), bitter gourd, chili pepper, and celery or kintsay. Garlic and tomato are also good sources of vitamins C and good cholesterol. For those who have anemia or diabetes, watercress or kangkong can be consumed as an immune booster. Apart from bitter gourd, a veggie that many Filipinos also dislike is okra; nevertheless, okra is rich in nutrients like vitamins C and A and is also traditionally used as a remedy for hyperacidity and diabetes. Although infrequently seen in most markets, katuray (Sesbania grandiflora) is a veggie that produces edible flowers that are packed with nutrition as well. Tan added that katuray is a veggie that is similar to that of malunggay leaves and tree height. “This is a vegetable that we should plant most often,” said Tan.

Nutritional Philippines fruits 

For Tan, a fruit in the Philippines with the highest vitamins is cashew (Anacardium occidentale). He adds that for those who are unfamiliar with how to eat this fruit, just  remove the cashew nut (top part of the fruit) as it causes itchiness and consume the cashew apple to obtain its nutrients. This is followed by guavas; these first two fruits are considered as neglected fruits or refers to the crops that are grown in the Philippines yet are underutilized by the populace. Next on the list is camachile or Manila tamarind, which Tan describes as a less-known fruit in the Philippines as compared to 30 to 40 years ago yet is still one of the fruits that are filled with vitamins C. 

Tan promotes these three fruits to be grown and raised in the Philippine for larger supply and presence in the market. “If your organization is thinking of tree planting, these three [fruits] are the best to plant,” the doctor said. Other nutritive fruits include anonas (Annona reticulata), papaya, a more common fruit that is high in vitamins A and C, mango, sineguelas (Spondias purpurea), suha or pomelo, atis or sugar apple (Annona squamosa), guyabano or soursop, and calamansi or Philippine lime. 

Unlike before, sineguelas can be rarely found in the markets, which Tan explains, “Many of these sineguelas trees have suffered urbanization and the first[s] to be cut down in our forest.” 

Next is dayap (Citrus aurantiifolia) fruit that is also one of the neglected fruits in the country. This fruit can toughen our immune system as it is also rich in vitamins C and antioxidants that help our system to fight infections like cold and flu. Last is balimbing or star fruit (Averrhoa carambola), a native fruit to Southeast Asia. 

Zinc as a vital nutrient for the body

“Zinc is a proven immune booster for COVID-19, but at the same time, one of the mainstays in the protocol for the treatment of COVID-19 in all hospitals, not just in the Philippines, but all over the world,” said Tan. And for him, the two best sources of zinc are beans and legumes, specifically mung beans, lentils, sweet peas, string beans or sitaw, winged beans or sigarilyas, lima beans or patani, soybeans, and cacao beans. Seeds that also contain significant amounts of zinc are sesame, watermelon, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. Philippines nuts that are rich in zinc are casuy, pili nuts, and peanuts. 

Virgin coconut oil

Tan shared how he uses virgin coconut oil in a method called oil pulling. This is an ancient tradition where you’ll keep one tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 15 minutes without gargling it. “It’s the tongue that pulls the oil inside the mouth and into the nasopharynx,” which is considered one entry of COVID-19. In this case, it can be a preventive measure for COVID-19, too, says Tan. 

Lagundi (Vitex negundo)

Introduced as one of the 10 medicinal plants by the Department of Health (DOH), lagundi has been widely recognized and used by many as an anti-cough, anti-fever, and that is also good to treat cold. 

Both VCO and lagundi are now under clinical trials for COVID-19. Aside from these two, Tan presented some Philippines medicinal plants that are not yet registered for clinical trials, but are seen to have good potential for COVID-19. These include papaya leaves, sinta (Andrographis paniculata) that is one of the most bitter plants in the world, sambong, sampa-sampalukan (Phyllanthus niruri), tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta), and tintatintahan or trailing eclipta (Eclipta alba). 

Although there’s no certainty for our safety and security against the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, it is important to take preventive measures as much as we can by eating healthily.

Watch the virtual seminar here:

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Vina Medenilla
Vina Medenilla is a content producer for Agriculture Monthly magazine. She is a graduate from Miriam College with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. Fashion, photography, and travel are some of the things she loves. For her, connection with nature is essential to one’s life.

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