Good nutrition is key to maintaining a healthy immune system and boosting its ability to fight infectious diseases. Therefore, eating a well-balanced diet is especially important during this pandemic that’s caused by the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
In a paper published in the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, researchers from Aga Khan University in Pakistan explored the relevance of good nutrition to immune health and offered dietary guidelines that could help people keep COVID-19 at bay.
Healthy eating during a pandemic
The stress of isolation and the disruption of routines due to the pandemic have left many people struggling to keep their physical health in check. The fear of catching the coronavirus in public places has also limited access to fresh and nutritious foods, further reducing opportunities to eat a healthy and varied diet every day.
But recent studies suggest that an individual’s nutritional status is key to maintaining a healthy immune system. A strong immune system is essential for maximum protection against the coronavirus.
With COVID-19 still affecting several nations including the United States, it is important to know which foods and eating practices can help improve your immune health. Here are some tips for upgrading your diet to an immune-boosting one:
- Eat fresh fruits – Fruits are excellent sources of fiber and micronutrients that support healthy immune function, such as zinc, iron and vitamins A, B, C and E. Experts recommend eating four servings of fruits every day as part of a balanced diet.
- Eat fresh vegetables – Vegetables provide significant amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that confer protective effects against diseases. Vegetables like legumes are also alternative sources of protein. A balanced diet should include at least five servings of vegetables daily.
- Eat whole grains – Whole grains provide complex carbs, which take longer to digest than simple carbs like sugar. Complex carbs, therefore, can keep you feeling full for longer. Whole grains are also rich in B vitamins that boost the body’s natural defenses.
- Snack on fresh fruits and nuts – Cut back on sweets, processed snacks and fried foods. Instead of these unhealthy foods, snack on raw fruits and nuts, which contain healthy fats that are good for your heart.
- Limit red meat consumption – Chicken, fish, eggs, beans and grass-fed beef are all healthier sources of animal protein than processed meats.
- Do not overcook vegetables – Vegetables are best served raw or steamed. Cooking vegetables for too long can lead to the loss of important nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.
- Limit salt intake – Eating too much sodium from cured meats, canned goods and junk foods can raise your blood pressure. Abnormally high blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. (Related: Keep your blood pressure under control with these 7 natural treatments.)
- Choose unsaturated over saturated fats – Unsaturated fats help improve blood cholesterol levels. They can be found in nutritious foods like avocados, oily fish, nuts and olive oil. Saturated fats, on the other hand, can raise your blood cholesterol. These unhealthy fats can be found in vegetable oils, red meat and dairy products.
- Stay hydrated – Good hydration is crucial for many important bodily processes, including digestion, nutrient absorption and blood circulation.
- Limit sugar intake – Indulging in sweets and drinks high in added sugar can raise your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is the most common cause of diabetes.
Besides these, the researchers also recommend maintaining a healthy lifestyle to support your immune function. This entails exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and managing your stress levels effectively.
Good food practices that keep mealtimes safe
More than eating a balanced diet, protection from COVID-19 hinges on observing good food practices that minimize the risk of contamination. This is particularly important since the virus can survive on different surfaces for several days. Recommended good food practices are as follows:
- Prepare a schedule or a daily meal plan – Preparing a daily meal plan or meal schedule can make it easier to do groceries safely. Following a meal plan also makes meal preparation easier.
- Prioritize fresh ingredients – Fresh ingredients have more nutrients than canned or processed foods. When making home-cooked meals, it’s better to prioritize fresh produce. Limit the use of non-perishable ingredients in cooking or opt for those that contain little to no sodium and additives.
- Eat at home – Eating meals at home reduces worries about contracting the disease unknowingly. Making your own meals also allows you to ensure that you’re eating nothing but clean, nutritious foods.
- Wash, rinse and disinfect objects and surfaces – Regularly disinfect countertops, tables, chairs, handles and other frequently used surfaces in the kitchen. All utensils should also be disinfected after use. In addition, thoroughly wash fresh produce.
- Use different utensils for raw and cooked foods – To prevent cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods, use separate chopping boards, knives and other utensils. Keep cooked and raw foods separate in the fridge as well.
Staying at home during the pandemic can be challenging for some people. The increased anxiety it brings can also cause people to neglect good eating habits and indulge in bad foods.
On the other hand, making healthy food choices, adopting a balanced diet and practicing good hygiene in the kitchen can help you boost your immune system so you’ll have better protection against COVID-19.
Learn more about how to ward off COVID-19 and other diseases with good nutrition at Prevention.news.