How to boost your immune system with food and prepare the fight for coronavirus

How to boost your immune system with food and prepare the fight for coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan, China has taken the lives of over 100 people in just a month. Around 5000 people have been confirmed infected as of today and a lot more are being tested for the virus. The world is getting anxious that this little virus may cause a global disaster.


What should you do to keep yourself safe?


The coronavirus is spreading more quickly than SARS, but the virus itself is less fatal than SARS. The people that have died from the virus so far seem to be ones who already have other health complications or poor immune functions. So the two most important actions right now are to stay away from the virus and improve your immunity.


To stay away from the virus, it is best to avoid traveling and getting exposed to potentially infected people. Currently, Asia is the most dangerous to travel to, but Australia is also not 100% safe as there have been 5 confirmed cases in NSW. Brisbane is relatively safe for now, but since the incubation period for the virus can be as long as two weeks, that could change any time. You should still be careful and avoid public gatherings as much as possible.


How can you improve our immune function?

Our immune system launches its defense mechanisms when our body senses invaders such as a virus. There are many factors that affect immune function, including genetics and lifestyle. While it is hard to change our genetics, you can certainly try to strengthen our immune function through food.


Our digestive system – the gastrointestinal tract is a potential entry site for bad bugs. When you feed on a healthy plant-based diet, good gut bacteria thrive and leave no room for bad bugs to enter your body. They keep our gut lining thick and secrete antimicrobials that tell bad bugs away.


Good gut bacteria can also produce healthy metabolites called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, propionate and acetate. These substances are known to help with immune defense against invading pathogens and prevent inflammation. They can also enhance gut barrier function and recruit immune cells to fight pathogens.


On the other hand, if your gut is in a state of imbalance, meaning there is not enough good gut microbes guarding the gut lining boosting your immune system, bad pathogens can come in and cause a scene. These bad bacteria thrive on a fibre-poor or animal-based diet, and produce harmful metabolites instead of healthy short-chain fatty acids.


What should you eat?

To encourage the growth of good gut bacteria, you need to fuel our body with a variety of prebiotics such as fibre, resistant starch and phytonutrients that come from plant foods. Use Vegan Palette’s food plate as a guide and make sure you eat enough vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. They will give you lots of natural prebiotics!

Vegan palette food plate

Want to print this food plate and a few other nutrition checklists? Check out our Essential Essential Vegan Health Bundle printables!


Start the day right

Don’t skip breakfast! This is when your gut needs nourishment the most. Start the day with a nourishing bowl of oats, topped with lots of fruits, berries, nuts and seeds.


Eat a rainbow bowl

Lunch should be the biggest meal in the day – this is when you can pack lots of macro- and micronutrients into your day. Aim for a rainbow plate with at least 8 different types of ingredients!


Snack on healthy whole foods

Snacking is okay, and good – if you choose the right snacks! Enjoy a selection of nuts and seeds, with a fruit salad for an added dose of vitamin C. This gives you a little extra immune boost.


Load up natural immune boosters!

Spices are great immune boosters! Ginger, turmeric, black pepper, garlic are great immune boosters. Don’t forget to add them to your plate.


Need more recipe inspirations? Check out our top 26 plant-based recipes designed by accredited practising dietitian.

If you want to delve a little deeper into the wonders of Gut Health, be sure to check out our Gut Health ebook to learn more.


Cheat Day Vegan Burgers in Brisbane (mouth-watering photos included)

As much as we encourage everyone to live a whole food plant-based lifestyle to the best of our ability, there might just be those days when you want to treat yourself to a vegan burger.

Or you might want to impress your vegan-curious friends that vegan burgers might actually taste better!

It’s great to see more places adopting vegan options on their menus, and more good news – the vegan options are slowly getting upgraded to plant-based!

Let’s take a look at 5 vegan burger places we went to in Brisbane and Bryon bay!


On Brewski’s menu, you will find the “Burgers for the plant-based” section with 5 amazing burgers:


Their top seller beefless burger is also my personal favorite, but I’m sure you will find others just as amazing.

I also had to include their vegan nachos here because it beats all the nachos I’ve ever had!!

Besides the most amazing food, I also had a lovely chat with Antoinette, who told me all the effort that went into sourcing ingredients locally to reduce the environmental impacts of importing mock meat. I was so glad to hear that all the ingredients were ethically sourced, with lots of consideration concerning health, safety, and environment!

Highly recommend Brewski for your Friday nights, birthdays and any functions 🙂

Find Brewski on Facebook and Instagram.

Just Poppy’s

If you are going to try out every burger on Just Poppy’s menu, it’s gonna take you a lifeeeeetimeeee.

I’ve never seen a burger place with shocking 13 vegan burgers!

Certainly would keep your tastebuds satisfied if you are sharing different burgers with friends 😛

I loved the Catch of the day (fishless fish) and was blown away by how real the “fish” patty tasted! Definitely a treat for someone who used to love fish.

Plenty of plant-based, minimally unprocessed burgers such as Hommos to god, which uses a chickpea patty, The plant-based disgrace with a black bean and beetroot patty.

Just Poppy’s also has the most beautiful vegan platter, perfect for a group of animal lovers!

OH!! And this one is SPECIAL – Potato Portato using scallops as buns! – Very unique, very creative, very delicious!

Find Just Poppy’s on facebook and Instagram.


Grassfed is a new burger joint tucked away in the Fish Lane, brought to you by the amazing I Should Coco man behind the Brisbane vegan market scene.

They offer very affordable vegan burgers, as well as coconut-based icecreams!

This one is their biggest and most popular B.F.C burger, which will definitely make you happy on a cheat day.

Find Grassfed on facebook and Instagram.


How cool is a green burger?

I know. These green burgers just look so appetizing!

Stacks on was one of the 11 amazing vegan burgers and my favorite as it uses mushroom and eggplant instead of a processed patty!

Sweet-kale Roline is another must-try, made of sweet potato, chia seed patty, onions rings and kale!

Find VeganBurgz on facebook and Instagram.


Best is saved to the last!! Elixiba is the ultimate plant-based burger you can dream of – The bridge between health and social life.

It is currently located in Byron Bay and Sunshine Coast, but I’ve heard rumors that they will be coming to Brisbane soon!! Fingers crossed.

Hemp patty, jackfruit, massive sweet potato chips! All so yummy and healthy!

Elixiba also offers a range of other plant-based dishes that I wouldn’t call cheat meals, all made from healthy whole foods, satisfying both your taste buds and nutrition!

Find Elixiba on facebook and Instagram.

There you have it – 5 burger places you can go to on your cheat day! Remember not to do these toooooo often and base most of your daily foods around plant-based foods in their whole form 🙂

Remember – A small step towards plant-based vegan is a big step for health, environment and animals!

All photos are taken by Raymond, the vegan dietitian and photography enthusiast at Vegan Palette! Show your love for vegan and plant-based cafes/restaurants to encourage more people to try out the vegan options 🙂 If you own a vegan restaurant/cafe and would like a professional photoshoot/menu design/nutritional advice with Vegan Palette, please get in touch at or our Facebook, Instagram, Website.


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Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? We have a bunch of support materials waiting for you including a dietitian guidebook, lifestyle checklists and assessments, and the best vegan websites we recommend, all for you for FREE.


About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She studied a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree to learn all about the human body and continued to pursue higher research training in a neuroscience laboratory to investigate how the brain develops. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.



Why can’t food scientists agree on coconut oil? Does it really burn fat?

What’s the fuss?

Coconut oil is probably one of the most controversial food. Some regard it is a “superfood“, rich in antioxidant and other nutrients. Claims regarding what it can do ranges from burning fat, preventing Alzheimer’s disease and improving endurance. But surprisingly, others consider it as a “devilfood“. Karin Micheals, a professor at Harvard, even went as far as calling coconut oil a “pure poison“.


What’s the truth?

Why can’t food scientists agree on coconut oil? Are the claimed benefits backed up by research or made up simply for propaganda?


Well, interestingly this debate on the coconut oil is actually related to changes in our nutrition guidelines and beliefs.


In the past, fats were considered bad and people consumed mostly carbohydrates in their diets. Of course, in the modern days, carbs often translate into highly processed, bad carbs, not complex natural carbs. As a result, obesity and diabetes skyrocketed, leading to new advice in the opposite direction “Avoid carbs and eat more fats!”


The pro-fat voice soon pushed avocados, olive oil and chia seeds into the spotlight. The public quickly learned about these new foods and called them “superfood“. While most food scientists and nutritionists agree that the fats in avocados and olive oil are healthy, compared to other fat sources, they couldn’t quite agree on coconut oil, a food composed almost entirely of saturated fat!


For decades, the heart associations educate people that saturated fat is bad as it increases cholesterol levels, putting people at risk for terrible heart diseases.


But coconut oil comes from plants, surely it is healthy?


Of course, coconut oil is not pro-inflammatory like meat. But compared to other vegetable oil that is lower in saturated fat, coconut oil does increase LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol” levels, make it less healthy. Therefore, it is all relative – coconut oil can be considered healthy or unhealthy, depending on what you are comparing it to.


If you have been puzzled by coconut oil, don’t subscribe to either extreme – It is not a “superfood“, but it is also not a “devilfood“. There are both better and worse sources that can offer you the needed fat.


Does coconut oil really burn fat?

The fat-burning claim about coconut oil came from some evidence that suggested the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) in coconut oil can promote fat loss. While it is true that coconut oil contains a lot of MCT, follow-up research has shown no difference in the fat-burning ability of coconut oil compared to other types of oil.


In fact, there are only 4 calories in 1 gram of protein and carbohydrate, but there are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat! Correct – more than double. This applies to all oil types, including coconut oil! So by consuming lots of coconut oil, you can easily add 200-400 extra calories and that of course, will reflect on your waistline. To sum up, coconut oil doesn’t burn fat, instead, it could make you gain weight. You should avoid over-consumption of all types of oils, even if it’s vegetable oil!



For those of you already on a vegan, plant-based diet, coconut oil is probably in your kitchen a lot. Don’t throw it out, as it is surely much better than butter and improves the flavor of many dishes. However, also don’t over-use this one type of oil. In fact, be cautious of any claim of “superfood” as it is like just propaganda. The best way to eat healthily is always to have variety like we always advocate for at Vegan Palette. In this case of oil, have other monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils in your kitchens, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil.


To learn more about coconut oil and vegetable oils, I recommend Dr. Michael Greger:

Coconut oil

Is coconut oil good for you?

Does coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s?

Does coconut oil clog arteries?

What about coconuts, coconut milk & coconut oil MCTs?




You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? I’ve compiled my gifts, knowledge and tips regarding thriving on a vegan lifestyle in this page, including a dietitian guidebook, grocery shopping list, lifestyle checklists, and the best vegan websites I recommend, all for you for FREE.


About the author


Raymond Setiadi is an Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian and is the founder of Vegan Palette,  a Brisbane-based dietitian practice.

As an expert in whole food plant-based nutrition and fat loss strategies, Raymond has a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between food,  human physiology, goal-directed psychology, and how they all play a pivotal role in one’s pursuit of optimal health.