Nutrition’s Role In Fighting COVID-19

Eating right can help you build a healthy immune system.

The coronavirus had only taken the lives of some 3,000 people worldwide when a claim suggesting that eating a Nigerian dish called Yoruba stew or simply consuming a diet rich in pepper could cure someone of the virus within 24 hours.

Within a matter of days, the “pepper soup theory” was determined to be a hoax.

Since then, a number of similar theories claiming that everything from garlic to warm lemon water can prevent or cure the coronavirus have emerged. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that any of these “miracle foods” work either.

Not even a boost in vitamin C, which may help shorten the duration and severity of common cold symptoms, has proven to be an effective remedy against the coronavirus. That’s not to say, though, that diet cannot be an ally in fighting off COVID-19.

While doctors and scientists have so far discovered that proper hygiene and physical or “social” distancing are the best way to avoid contracting the virus, they do not discount the role that eating a proper diet can play in that battle.

It has long been known that adequate amounts of iron, zinc and vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12 can optimize a person’s immune system. It’s quite possible then that by eating a well-balanced diet, a person’s immunity to COVID-19 can be enhanced as well.

The reason is simple. As the World Health Organization points out, “people who eat a well-balanced diet tend to be healthier, have stronger immune systems and are at lower risk for developing chronic illnesses and infectious diseases.”

That goes for the coronavirus, too. After all, it is now known that older people and those with pre-existing health conditions or a compromised immune system are among those affected most severely by the coronavirus.

So now more than ever, it’s important to limit your intake of processed foods heavy in sugar, salty snacks and fat and increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, nuts and whole grains.

It is in the latter category of foods where the vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, proteins and antioxidants that the body needs to function best exist, and it is through that proper function that a person can increase their chances of combating disease.

On the other hand, people who suffer from deficiencies of proteins and micronutrients tend to have less energy as well as depressed immune systems and are therefore more susceptible to infection than those who eat a healthy diet.

And let’s not forget the critical role that water plays in this equation. Water is essential because it transports nutrients and compounds in blood, regulates body temperature, promotes waste removal and lubricates joints.

That’s why doctors recommend drinking between eight and 10 cups of water per day to remain properly hydrated. That may seem like a lot to some, but those eight to 10 cups of water can include a cup of tea or coffee as well as fruits that contain a lot of water.

Examples of such fruits include melons of most any kind, especially watermelon, grapefruit, oranges, raspberries strawberries and cranberries. Adding a little lemon juice to water can help you reach your daily water goals as well.

The overall goal, of course, is to avoid developing deficiencies of the vitamins and nutrients that allow us to maintain a healthy immune system, and that includes vitamin D, so simply eating right may not be enough to keep that immune system humming.

Because exposure to sunlight provides us with our best source of vitamin D, it’s important during this time to get outside as much as possible if that is not a normal part of your regular routine.

Granted, that could prove difficult for some. But that’s why the British Dietetic Association (BDA) recommends that people who are quarantined or are otherwise unable to get outside regularly add a daily supplement of 10 grams of vitamin D to their diet.

The addition of that supplement can further boost a person’s immune system, though the best way to those immune systems running strong is to eat properly. And sure, that can include a bowl of pepper soup or Yoruba stew if you’d like.

Just keep in mind that according to the latest scientific research, those and other so-called “super foods” alone will not help you ward off or recover from the coronavirus.

Authors:

Roy Cummings
Roy Cummings

About Roy Cummings

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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