Healthy Bites: What to Eat in a Pandemic

what to eat in a pandemic

By Michelle Lau

Nourish yourself to boost your immune system (and give you an edge against Covid-19)

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting every aspect of our lives – from virtual business meetings, to limited outdoor activities, to early restaurant closing times, to outright quarantines. No one can predict how long this pandemic will last, but the silver lining of this restricted existence represents a perfect time to safeguard and improve your health while practicing social distancing.

While it is clear that diet and nutrition are very important elements of supporting the immune system in combating the virus, it is worth noting is that there is no individual nutritional supplement that will stop one from contracting highly infectious viruses like Covid-19. However, it’s still worth looking into which natural, whole foods we should all be consuming daily to protect ourselves better now and in the future.

The immune system is a highly intricate network of cells and molecules designed to keep the body free of the wide array of pathogens present in the environment. This complexity means that apart from nutrition, other factors such as genetics, stress, and exercise can affect our immune response.

In addition, prevailing evidence shows an correlation between an unhealthy lifestyle and viral diseases, particularly those which affect the respiratory system. For example, high blood sugar reduces and impairs immune function, and excessive body fat is known to disrupt immune regulation and lead to chronic inflammation. In the case of Covid-19, low levels of specific nutrients, such as vitamin D, have been recognized as risk factors for the virus.

While vitamin C supplements may be flying off the shelves, this is not the only nutrient that maintains the immune system. There is currently no evidence that eating certain foods, loading up on a specific nutrient, or following a targeted diet will protect you against COVID-19 specifically, but studies have found that certain foods can strengthen the body’s ability to fight off invasive viruses.

Getting infected increases the body’s demand for energy and nutrients, so a full spectrum of ingredients is needed to replenish the body’s stores. Energy is required to combat the virus, The body can use blocks such as amino acids created from protein-rich foods to produce essential antibodies, and a variety of immunonutrition-focused nutrients such vitamins A, C and E, along with the minerals zinc and selenium, can help regulate the immune response.

Luckily, these essential nutrients are easy, readily available, and super-economical choices for a weekly meal plan.

What immune-support-nutrients should I eat to boost my immune system?

Vitamin A:

Vitamin A cannot be cannot be synthesized by the human body, so it must be obtained from food. Vitamin A is essential for immunity, cellular differentiation, and vision.

What to eat:

Vitamin A is found as preformed vitamin A in foods such as liver, cod-liver oil, eggs, and dairy products, and as provitamin A (carotenoids) in foods such as spinach, carrots, and orange fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a central role in normal immune function, wound healing, and as a potent antioxidant. It helps to protect against infections and inflammation by supporting various cellular functions of the immune system.

What to eat:

Fruits (especially citrus), potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in our skin in response to sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is vital for regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in our bloodstreams and facilitating normal immune system function.

What to eat:

Fortified milk or juices, fortified cereals, fatty fish, egg yolk.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E acts as a potent antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells. It also plays an important role in modulating immune function.

What to eat:

Vegetable oils, salad dressings and margarines made with vegetable oils, wheat germ, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts and nut butter.

Zinc

Zinc supports the formation of many kinds of enzymes, proteins, and new cells. It is also essential for immune system function, taste, smell, and wound healing.

What to eat:

Red meat, poultry, oysters and other seafood, fortified cereals, beans, nuts.

Selenium

Selenium is an essential mineral, meaning it must be obtained through diet. It plays a major role in important processes in our bodies, including metabolism and thyroid function. This antioxidant helps lower oxidative stress in our body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity.

What to eat:

Turkey, seafood, brazil nuts, mushroom, and grain products.

Last but not least, stay active

Exercise is known to have a profound impact on the normal functioning of the immune system. High cardiorespiratory (heart and lung) fitness is also associated with less respiratory illness, and better survival from such illnesses. Each bout of exercise instantaneously mobilizes billions of immune cells, especially those cell types that are capable of carrying out effector functions such as the recognition and killing of virus-infected cells.

As mentioned above, there may not be any magic beans out there to protect you from Covid-19, but there are small things we can do (and eat!) to make ourselves at least a little bit safer.

About the Author

Michelle is a Registered Dietitian (MSc.), nutrition educator, media personality, and the founder of NUTRILICIOUS, a B2B nutrition consultancy and communications company that aspires to inspire millions across Asia to eat their way to healthier and happier lives. Michelle and her team passionately motivate all audiences to Eat Whole, Train Smart, Live Full and deliver science-based nutrition information in fun and “digestible” ways. As an avid runner and obsessive home baker, she appreciates and prioritizes balance in all areas of life. “Change the world, One bite at a time.

www.facebook.com/nutriliciousss

Header image by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

SHARE THIS STORY

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

RELATED POSTS

Mental Health Tips for When You Get Back in the Office

Mental Health Tips for When You Get Back in the Office

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of challenges for employees working from home. As we are fast approaching the post-pandemic world, we have to start getting accustomed to heading back to the office again. No doubt, it is going to be difficult adjusting to the long-forgotten habit of getting ready early in the morning, putting on your finest work clothes, working till 7pm in your suffocating cubicle and dealing with horrible bosses and gossipy colleagues face to face.

Top Three Online Job Portals in China for English-Speakers

Top Three Online Job Portals in China for English-Speakers

China is a fast-growing economy and currently boasts the second-largest economy in the world behind the United States. Many people from around the world have tried searching for jobs and achieving career success in the country. The majority of English-speaking people in China find work in multinational companies that are mostly located in metropolitan Shanghai and Beijing.

How Does a Startup Become a Unicorn

How Does a Startup Become a Unicorn

In the startup world, a unicorn refers to any startup with a valuation of over US$1 billion. Companies like Airbnb and Netflix fall under the unicorn category. As of 2021, there are 650 unicorns in the world with a cumulative valuation of US$2,173 billion.

Meet the Young Woman Who Saved Kenya’s Plastic Waste Problem

Meet the Young Woman Who Saved Kenya’s Plastic Waste Problem

Kenya has a huge plastic waste problem. A 2015 report found that the Kenyan capital Nairobi produced around 400 tons of plastic waste every day. Yet, less than half of that had been recycled. Despite outlawing single-use plastics in 2017, the country is still drowning in them. The Dandora landfill, located in the heart of the Nairobi slums, currently receives more than 2000 metric tons of waste daily.

How Can Your Company Become More Energy-Efficient

How Can Your Company Become More Energy-Efficient?

Countries and companies are consuming too much energy today. The abrupt power cuts in China are a testimony to that. The country was forced to cut power across factories and towns to meet their energy goals. Energy efficiency—using less energy to do more—does not have to be this challenging and cumbersome, not for large corporations or startups.

Cyberport Venture Capital Forum

How Will Humans and Technology Interact in the Next Decades?

While the world has witnessed a rapid digitalization of our everyday life in the course of the pandemic, attention has been brought to the debate that has long been around–how should humans and technology interact? And how do we prepare for new developments? In response to this, Dr. David Siegel, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder of financial sciences company Two Sigma.