While the world is confronted with uncertainties brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, we should also remember to focus on strengthening our immune system, which acts as our natural defense against this virus.
The Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology recommends to follow the principle of a balanced diet using the Pinggang Pinoy as a menu planning guide, which emphasizes various portions of go, glow, and grow food, complemented by fats and oils and high intake of water.
The food that we eat can also help strengthen our immune system especially when fear, panic, and anxiety—which are common during a crisis—affect our ability to relax and sleep, the lack of which lowers body’s defenses.
Melatonin regulates human physiological rhythm, alleviates related disorders like insomnia, acts as an antioxidant, enhances the immune system, provides anti-aging and anti-inflammatory effects, and facilitates the control of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity.
Enrich your diet with the following food sources of melatonin:
Cereals. Non-glutinous black rice contains twice the level of melatonin, while the concentration is reduced to 1/3 less when rice is polished. For other cereals, melatonin is relatively high in wheat, barley, and oats. Meanwhile, bread crumbs have higher levels than the crust.
Fruits. These are the highest melatonin-rich fruits in descending order: skin of grapes, cherries, and strawberry. Others include pineapple, kiwi, apple, pomegranate, mulberry, and cranberry.
Legumes and seeds. Legumes and seeds such as white and black mustard, and sautéed mung bean sprout (togue) are good sources. Melatonin is also found in lentils, kidney beans, barley seed, alfalfa, coriander, green cardamom, fennel, anise, flax, and almond.
Nuts. Pistachio and walnuts are the top sources from this food group.
Vegetables. Peppers contain relatively high concentrations. Other vegetables with varying levels of melatonin content are onion, garlic, ginger, black olive, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, cucumber, carrot, radish, beetroot, purslane, spinach, asparagus, chungitsu, taro, Indian spinach, Chinese cabbage, Japanese butterbur, ashitaba, and radish.
Edible oils. Top contenders are refined linseed and virgin soybean oils. Others include refined olive, sunflower oils, and extra virgin olive oil.
Animal food. Eggs and fish have higher melatonin content than lamb, beef, pork, and chicken.
Consumption of food items with melatonin may revitalize one’s immune system by increasing circulating melatonin in the blood stream, and increasing the body’s antioxidant capacity.
About the writer: Teddy S. Manansala is a registered nutritionist-dietitian and holds two master’s degrees—from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and University of the Philippines. He is an Assistant Professor at the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management of the DLS-CSB where he teaches Culinary Nutrition, Wellness, Food Safety, Sanitation, and Security, among others.