While no one food can prevent COVID-19, you can eat foods that support your immune system and reduce your chances of developing a disease that puts you in the “high risk” bracket. Lentils, in particular, and loaded with immunity-boosting and longevity-promoting vitamins and minerals.
Before we begin: want to reap the benefits of lentils, without having to cook them?
MamaSezz Gardener's Pie is a lentil-loaded vegan take on a comfort food classic. Get Gardener's Pie and more delicious whole food plant-based meals delivered to your door with the MamaSezz Get Me Started bundle.
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Our immunity is our body's ability to fight off a foreign organism, like an infection or a virus. When your body senses a foreign substance, our immune response is to produce antibodies. Antibodies fight the germs, which we call antigens. When your immunity is at its strongest, you produce more antibodies, which means you have more good guys fighting on your side.
So if your “it’s just allergies” coworker takes a sip of your coffee, or that guy on the subway wasn’t covering his mouth while coughing, you have a lesser chance of their antigens taking over your body and getting you sick.
As you age, your immune response decreases. This is why it's especially important for the elderly to improve their immunity through a well-rounded plant-based diet because they are more susceptible to lasting damage and even fatality through common sicknesses like colds and the flu. High-risk populations include the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, heart disease, diabetes and lung cancer.
One immunity-boosting food to add to your plant-based diet: lentils. Here's why we love this healthy pantry staple, especially right now.
1. Lentils boost your heart health, reduce cholesterol, and lower blood pressure
Lentils can promote a healthy heart, and even prevent heart disease (which kills 1 out of every 3 people in the United States). As little as ⅓ a cup of lentils a day can actually increase your good cholesterol levels, and decrease your bad cholesterol levels significantly.
Need to lower your blood pressure? Lentils may just be your answer. Studies found that the consumption of lentils helped to lower blood pressure more than any other bean (1). The high amounts of fiber in lentils can also help those who are overweight lose weight naturally, leaving them at a lower risk for heart disease.
2. Lentils can prevent certain cancers
Folate is an important substance for cancer prevention and is found in large amounts in legumes. Selenium is another crucial nutrient that can slow the growth of tumors and improve immunity (2)
3. Lentils can boost athletic performance
Whether you're a pro athlete or a weekend warrior, it's time to hop on the lentil train. These super legumes are loaded with iron, which helps to distribute oxygen to your entire body. They are packed with fiber, which helps to give you steady energy. And they've got plenty of healthy plant protein to repair and rebuild muscles.
4. Lentils helps with regularity and builds good gut bacteria
Most Americans experience constipation because many of us aren't eating enough dietary fiber. In fact, 97% of Americans are fiber deficient!
Why does this matter? Well, our gut microbiomes run primarily on fiber. Fiber promotes that good bacteria growth. When we consume fiber, our gut produces short chain fatty acids which aid in the growth of the cells that line our colons, suppress inflammation, and fight disease.
Without fiber, we can't feed our good gut bacteria, resulting in dysbiosis, which is an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This overgrowth can lead to inflammatory disease (like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for starters).
Good bacteria like butyrate, on the other hand, has anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties. And fiber promotes the growth of butyrate producing bacteria, so no surprise: vegetarians are found to have a much higher concentration of butyrate producing genes.
Fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar, and can help reduce the risk of diabetes.
If you are loading up on lentils to prevent disease, you are making a positive move for your immune system. By decreasing your chances of disease, you are decreasing your chances of being in the “high risk” category, so if you do come in contact with a virus like COVID-19 or bacteria, your body will be better equipped to fight it off.
Selenium, zinc, and Vitamin B6 (among others) are three really important immunity boosting compounds, and they can all be found in lentils.
Enjoying nutrient dense foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and beans regularly can decrease your risk for developing major diseases like heart disease and certain cancers. And eating a whole food plant-based diet can also help to build your immunity to protect your body against bacteria and viruses like COVID-19.
“Eating a low-fat, plant-based diet may help give the immune system a boost. The immune system relies on white blood cells that produce antibodies to combat bacteria, viruses, and other invaders. Vegetarians have been shown to have more effective white blood cells when compared to nonvegetarians, due to a high intake of vitamins and low intake of fat.” - The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Lentils are a great substitute for meat because they are rich in protein, and have a hearty, meaty flavor. They're also very affordable component of a plant-based diet, about 10 cents per servings. Lentils can be boiled, strained and added to a recipe, or cooked directly in a soup like rice or pasta.
Try this super simple Lemon Lentil Soup recipe, and eat lentils all week long!
Don’t feel like cooking?
- Our immunity is our body's ability to fight off a foreign organism, like an infection or a virus.
- Adding immunity-boosting foods to your plant-based diet is key during COVID-19 (or any time!).
- Eating lentils can reduce your risk of heart disease, prevent certain cancers, boost athletic performance, and restore your gut health.
- Lentils are easy to cook with at home, like this immunity-boosting lemon lentil soup. Or you can get ready-made and lentil-loaded meals delivered from MamaSezz, like MamaSezz Lentil Dhal over Quinoa or MamaSezz vegan Gardener's Pie.
By Caroline DiNicola Fawley
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies