Are you concerned about how nutrition affects your ability to fight COVID-19? Are you having a hard time separating nutrition facts from fiction?
So far, there are few evidence-based recommendations for preventing or treating COVID-19. But here are a few things you can do.
As always, eat tons of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, which support immune function and fight inflammation. Flavonoids are antioxidants that show particular promise in preventing respiratory tract infections. Get plenty of flavonoids from foods like these:
- Red, blue, and purple berries and grapes
- Green tea
- Soy and other legumes
- If you drink alcohol: moderate amounts of red wine (5 ounces per day for women, 10 ounces per day for men)
- Dark chocolate (1 ounce per day)
Zinc is a mineral in some foods that shows promise for fighting viruses. Older adults – the age group most at risk for deadly complications from COVID-19 – also happen to be the age group most vulnerable to zinc deficiency. Include foods in your diet that are rich in zinc:
- Soy, beans, and other legumes
- Low-fat yogurt
Selenium is an element in some foods that also happens to be an antioxidant. Like all antioxidants it fights disease, including possibly COVID-19, by fighting inflammation. Start including more sources of selenium in your diet:
- Oysters, clam, crab, shrimp
- Tuna, salmon, and halibut
- Whole grains
- Sunflower seeds
- Low-fat milk
Make sure you inform your doctor or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist before you start taking any zinc or selenium supplements to be sure they don’t conflict with any of your other medical conditions or treatments.
Proteins are the building blocks of the antibodies in your immune system that fight infection. To prevent COVID-19, you probably don’t need to eat more protein than normal. But if you already have COVID-19, you may need to increase or even double your intake. Ask your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for a recommendation tailored to you. Here are some healthy serving sizes of protein-rich foods to include at meals:
- 3 ounces of lean meat, fish, or shellfish
- 1 egg
- ½ cup of beans, lentils, or tofu
- 8 ounces of low-fat or fat-free milk (including soy milk)
- 6 ounces of plain low-fat yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons of nut or seed butters (like peanut or sunflower seed butter)
- ¼ cup of nuts or seeds
Nutrition tips for managing common symptoms of COVID-19
Nutrition-related symptoms of COVID-19 include loss of appetite, loss of taste sensation, nausea, and diarrhea. It’s critically important to get adequate nutrition to help your body recover. To cope with these symptoms, try the following:
- Eat six small snack-like meals per day, instead of the typical three square meals.
- If there’s a time of day when you have your best appetite, eat as much as possible during that time of day.
- Portion food onto a bread or salad plate, instead of a dinner plate. This will look more palatable and less intimidating visually.
- If you have nausea or diarrhea, try soft, low-fiber, cold or room temperature foods. Cooked and cooled hot cereals like Cream of Rice or Cream of Wheat, white rice, mashed potatoes, and canned fruits and vegetables can be comforting. Saltine crackers work well, too. Be sure to sip on water or suck on ice chips throughout the day.
- If you have loss of taste sensation, try adding sour, tart, spicy, or sweet flavors to your food. Try adding vinegar, lemon or lime juice, jelly or jam, cranberry sauce, syrup, or peppers of all kinds.
- Drink plenty of water to loosen up lung secretions. This can help you breathe easier, which in turn can help you have a better appetite and suffer less gas and bloating.
If you have questions about nutrition for COVID-19, contact the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Jenna Miles, at [email protected].