Nutritionist reveals why 'immune system boosting' is actually a myth

Marni Dixit
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

At this time of the year, and especially given the current climate surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are trying to remain especially cautious when it comes to our immunity.

You might have read before about how you can "boost" your immunity, but according to nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume, this idea is not scientifically accurate and is actually dangerous.

A nutritionist reveals why 'immune boosting' is a myth and how to actually best protect yourself this cold and flu season. Photo: Getty

Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle, Kathleen revealed the dangers in using the term "boost" when referring to your immunity, explaining it’s a “myth” and the terms is “used quite loosely”

"I prefer to use the word 'strengthen'. Because when you think about the term 'boost' and the immune system is such a complex system and if you really wanted to boost the system it could actually put it into overdrive which is actually not good for us,” Kathleen said.

"So, the actual term 'boost' is not scientifically valid, unless you have a vaccine, really."

Should you be looking at strengthening your immune system however, you're in luck, with Kathleen revealing your diet, sleep and exercise plays a huge role in doing so.

Kathleen recommends eating large variety of fruit and vegetables in order to get more fibre in your diet which assists your gut health, therefore helping to strengthen your immune system. Photo: Getty

"The things we have control over is our lifestyle, so obviously, diet is a big one. So, if we look at lifestyle in general, we have to look at eating a well balanced diet, getting enough sleep and physical activity."

Kathleen added that when it comes to our immune systems, something many people don't realise is that it's very linked to our gut health.

"If we look at diet in general, we're looking at a balanced diet and then if we were to go into the gut in particular, the gut plays a major role in our immune system and that's because, technically, around 70 to 80 per cent of our immune system actually lies in our gut,” she said

Kathleen explained that getting enough fibre in your diet is hugely important for gut health and therefore important in strengthening your immune system.

Kathleen said, "There's lots of things beyond digestion that our gut's involved in and the immune system is a big part of that. But the biggest influence we have on our gut health is via our lifestyle and our diet." Photo: Getty

"Fibre in particular is the food preference that our gut bugs love. When we talk about our gut bugs, we're looking at probiotics – they're the type of live bacteria that reside in the gut and we want a good balance of good bacteria as opposed to bad bacteria.

"What they actually feed off is what we classify as prebiotics and they are particularly found in a diverse range of fibre and where we get a lot of this fibre is from wholegrain, plant-based foods – fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes.”

When asked what the biggest myth she's heard about the gut is, Kathleen said: "[Many of us] think of our gut as just an organ that's just there to digest our food, but as we're now learning in science, our gut does more beyond digesting our food, it's actually linked to our immune system which we know, and it actually connects with out brain as well."

"There's lots of things beyond digestion that our gut's involved in and the immune system is a big part of that. But the biggest influence we have on our gut health is via our lifestyle and our diet."

Kathleen recommends another way to keep your immune system nice and strong is to "eat in season" and eat a range of different coloured fruits and vegetables as well as wholegrains.

"I'm starting at the moment with my breakfast, I think breakfast is a great time of the day to get in a really good source of wholegrains and fibres. I'm loving [Uncle Toby's] Blend range at the moment because it's got the added prebiotics with the oats in there, so that's just a good way to give the digestive system a good start to the day."

Kathleen also shared a fibre-rich recipe for those in need of some breakfast inspiration:

Turmeric and Kimchi Wholegrain Omelette

Kathleen also shared a breakfast recipe with Yahoo Lifestyle for those in need of inspiration. Photo: Supplied

Serves 1

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 5-7 minutes

Ingredients:

1 x 46g sachet of UNCLE TOBYS Super Blends Prebiotic Fibre – Turmeric & Coconut

1/3 cup skim milk

2 free range eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp olive oil

40g store-bought kimchi

Lemon wedge, to serve

Method:

Place oats and milk in a small bowl to soak and allow oats to soften for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Pre-heat the grill to 160°C.

Heat a small-medium sized fry pan over medium heat. Add the oil, then sautée the onions until translucent, roughly 2-minutes. Leave the heat on.

Meanwhile, add the beaten eggs and spinach to the oat mixture, give it a gentle stir to combine and pour the egg and oat mixture into the fry pan. Season with salt and pepper. Use a fork to evenly scatter the ingredients within the egg mixture and cook for 2 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.

Place the pan under the pre-heated grill until the omelette is golden brown and cooked through in the middle.

Remove from the grill, and carefully ease the omelette onto a plate. Add the kimchi to the middle of the omelette and gently fold over one side. Serve with lemon wedge.

Nutrition per serve: 1610 kJ; 21g protein; 16g fat (4.6g saturated fat); 33g carbs (12g total sugars); 9g fibre; 437g sodium.

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