A lot of tosh is talked about “superfoods”. It’s the food marketeer’s selling point, a term frequently employed to bestow an aura of health on products that do not merit it. In common with much abused words like “natural”, its use is unregulated, and those medics who spurn all complementary therapies outright associate it with quackery, snake oil for the worried well, or worse, raising false hopes in those who are very ill.

But superfood sceptics often have little or no education in nutrition. I’ve heard some go as far as saying that the food we eat has absolutely no bearing on our state of health. How blinkered.

Other health professionals, working in GP surgeries, hospitals, or many care homes, reluctantly accept that they work in a system where the food fed to their patients is so scant and nutritionally impoverished, it’s likely to make them worse, not better. They don’t see that lamentable state of affairs changing anytime soon.

But while it would be irresponsible and wrong to infer that a diet of certain foods can cure or prevent serious maladies, it’s equally stupid to assert that if we maximise foods in our diet that are nutrient-dense, those that are especially rich in macro and micro-nutrients, this will have no beneficial effect on our health.

I don’t know about you, but with coronavirus around, I’m looking closely at what I’m eating, and trying to boost my immunity by packing in as many of the foods that genuinely do merit the abused superfood tag.

We’ll be doing a disservice to our health if, in need of easy comfort, we rely on ultra-processed junk food and sugar to get us through this crisis. So don’t tell me to eat custard creams and cross my fingers. Here are the foods I’m concentrating on. They’re not expensive, and reasonably available.


Eggs provide us with high quality protein and healthy fat to satisfy our appetite and keep us going from from one meal to another. Nature’s multivitamin, they are an outstanding source of vitamins A, D, E, various B vitamins, key minerals, and more obscure, yet vital micronutrients – choline, lecithin, lutein and zeaxanthin – that help us fight infection.

Herring, sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon and other oily fish

The long chain fatty acids EPA and DHA in these fish have multiple health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. They’re a top source of vitamin D, which people in sun-scant countries like ours often lack. Latest research from medics at Trinity College Dublin suggests that vitamin D supplementation in the adult population, and particularly in frontline healthcare workers, may further help to limit infection and flatten the Covid-19 curve.

Red meat and liver

A top source of high quality protein – it contains all the nine essential amino acids necessary for human health. It’s also a treasure chest of B vitamins, most notably B12, and vitamin D, which we now realise plays a more important role in fighting disease than was once understood.

Broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, romanesco, kohlrabi and other brassicas

These affordable home-grown vegetables are loaded with immune system-boosting vitamin C, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying micronutrients, and glucosinolate compounds, which have a strong anti-cancer action.


There’s a stack of good nutrition packed in this watery plant, including lots of vitamin C, flavonoid antioxidants (carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin), which help protect cells against damage from free radicals, and zinc that supports the immune system.

Sprouted legumes

Sprouting makes the nutrients in legumes, such as mung beans, and marrowfat peas, more absorbable as it lowers the levels of “anti-nutrients” that would otherwise interfere with digestion. Sprouts contain worthwhile levels of vitamin C and minerals, such a zinc. If you live in a food desert, or you are struggling to find fresh greens, sprouted seeds are one solution.

Yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, cheese, and other fermented foods

Lactic bacteria in fermented foods have a beneficial probiotic effect in our gastrointestinal tract, where they strengthen our gut microbiome, the population of bacteria that live there.

Research is ongoing, but it’s thought that the greater the number of such bacteria in our microbiome, and the more diverse their make-up, the higher our disease resistance.

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