By now, you're very familiar with the daily COVID-prevention checklist: Wash your hands, don't touch your face, wear your mask in public, and socially distance from others. Each of these precautions aligns with guidelines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, to help mitigate viral transmission. Of course, all of these recommendations are vital and useful, but, unfortunately, there's not enough focus on nutrition and supplementation as a preventive measure.
Why nutrition needs to be a priority, not an afterthought
The greatest single influence of whether you develop chronic disease or contract this virus is your nutritional quality. Diet is constantly, universally important at preventing major health conditions. And there is plenty of literature showing that it is the single leading predictor of mortality. So, focusing on diet amid COVID-19 is both a necessity and an opportunity.
It's no secret that individuals with underlying health conditions like heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease are at a higher risk of adverse COVID outcomes. For these people, improving your diet and taking the necessary supplements is even more important.
What Foods Should I Be Eating?
Foods To Enjoy
A nutrient dense diet increases the function of your immune system and better prepares your body to resist illness of any kind.
Eat High quality protein - Protein should be consumed at every meal (grass fed beef, organic eggs, organic poultry, wild caught fish, lentils, beans, quinoa).
Eat TONS of Veggies - Most of our vitamins, minerals, and helpful nutrients come from vegetables. Fresh produce is the best option. Avoid canned veggies as they contain preservatives and high amounts of sodium.
Buy Organic Meat & Veggies - It is important to buy organic meats and vegetables to avoid exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and the pesticides and herbicides that are so commonly sprayed on the vegetables. Organic foods can cost slightly higher, if this is a concern for you, at the very least, make sure to buy the "dirty dozen" as organic. Apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuces, cucumber, blueberries, and potatoes should all be organic. I also include kale and green beans on my list.
Manage Your Fruit Intake - Fruit is incredibly healthy for you, but it does contain sugar. I recommend keeping your total fructose levels below 15 grams per day. Stick with lower fructose fruits like berries and citrus fruits.
Increase Healthy Fats: Healthy fats are an important part of a healthy diet. Enjoy more coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds), grass fed beef, wild caught salmon, and eggs.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate - As with most illnesses, it’s important to stay hydrated. Hydration is super important for good health in general!! Drink half of your body weight in ounce of water.
Where Do I Get Specific Vitamins?
Foods High in B Vitamins: B vitamins are important immune boosters. Foods high in B-vitamins include grass-fed beef, cultured dairy, eggs, organic chicken and wild-caught fish.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C: Add orange and yellow fruits and vegetables to increase your vitamin C intake, which will help to boost your immune system. Eat more citrus fruits, red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, mangos & papaya
Foods Rich in Vitamin A: Enjoy more carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, red peppers, eggs and apricots.
Foods High in Vitamin E: Nuts, seeds, spinach and broccoli all are good sources of this fat-soluble nutrient that acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin E.
Foods Rich in Zinc: Zinc, which is found in pumpkin seeds, lentils, beans and sesame seeds, can help boost white blood cells, which help defend our bodies from illness.
Other Foods that Boost Your Immune System: Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, garlic, ginger, spinach, broccoli, red peppers, turmeric and green tea — These foods are high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and calcium and boost your immune function.
What Foods Should I Avoid?
Foods to Avoid
Avoid foods that create inflammation, diminish your immune responses and create an acidic environment.
Processed Foods - Processed food includes food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition. They offer no real nutritional value and the preservatives and chemicals in these foods create inflammation in the gut and decrease immune function.
Sugar - I know when we feel ill, we often want comfort food and will turn to sugary treats. However, these foods decrease white blood cells that help fight off infection and decrease immune function significantly. Also avoid fruit juices with high amounts of sugar.
Caffeine & Alcohol— Both of these have a detrimental effect on your body's ability to fight against viruses, and therefore should be avoided when you're trying to ward off viruses. They also deplete the body of much needed hydration. I know this is a tough one, but should be considered to prevent illness.
Carbonated beverages & Fried Foods— Sodas, fast food and fried foods promote a more acidic system, so try to avoid them.
Make better choices rather than grabbing something processed and unhealthy.
If you want something sweet, choose fruit.
Craving salt? Measure one ounce of nuts or an ounce of hummus.
Need something sour? Try dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
Creamy cravings could be satisfied with unsweetened yogurt (try plain and put in your own fruit for flavor).
For something crunchy, try carrot sticks, celery or other raw veggies.
For a carb craving, try whole wheat crackers which is a better choice than chips or standard crackers.
If you just need chocolate, allow yourself one square of dark chocolate to satisfy that craving.
What Supplements Should I Be Taking?
Even in idyllic conditions, it's hard to get the nutrition we need from just our food. With soil health declining and toxicity on the rise, we need more nutrition than we can consume on a whole foods, organic diet to tip the scales in our favor. Sometimes supplementation is necessary.
Not all supplements are created equally. Be sure you do your research on the quality of supplements you choose. Take a deep dive into the ingredients and manufacturing practices before you start using them.
There is something called “THE BIG THREE” and these are three supplements that play a vital role and are key in supporting your immune health and preventing any virus. The big 3 includes: Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin C is regarded as one of the most beneficial vitamins for overall health and immune support – And for good reason. It promotes a healthy immune response by supporting various cellular functions in both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
It also helps strengthen the epithelial barrier (this is the lining that protects your organs). Along with this, vitamin C bolsters your skin health, which provides key protecting for your body.
Vitamin C enhances your immune defense cells, as well as B- and T-cells, which are crucial for protecting your body.
Lastly, it’s an antioxidant, meaning it neutralizes free radicals by donating electrons to these unstable atoms. This, in turn, helps relieve the body of oxidative stress and the damage this may cause.
For these reasons and more, vitamin C has been shown to support overall health, help speed up recovery times, and optimize functions of the immune system.
Vitamin D deficiency has emerged as a primary risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection and death. Higher vitamin D levels have even been shown to lower your risk of testing positive for the virus in the first place
According to a Spanish study, 82.2% of COVID-19 patients tested were found to be deficient in vitamin D
One study found your risk of developing a severe case of, and dying from, COVID-19 virtually disappears once your vitamin D level gets above 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L)
Vitamin B Complex
In regards to immune function, Vitamin B help regulate the immune response, and support a balanced immune system.
Specifically, vitamins B6, B9, and B12 have been shown to increase the production of a number of immune cells and modulate the activity of these cells to ensure optimal behavior.
Our B-Replete Complex also contains a number of essential minerals, including ones that contribute to a healthy immune system.
For these reasons, B-Complex is a supercharged supplement composed of various elements needed to support your immune function.
Final Thoughts & Encouragement
Gratefully, most COVID cases are highly manageable with natural treatments. We can all make a greater effort to boost our immune systems and create a healthy defense against viruses. Natural prevention involves choosing foods that boost the immune system, avoiding foods that create inflammation and weaken our immune system, consistent exercise, managing stress and getting enough sleep. I hope this article gives you some encouragement to make healthier choices.
Wishing you health & happiness!
Dr. Angela Walk has been involved in the health and wellness industry for over 20 years as a wellness physician and holistic nutrition coach. She has written extensively for health publications and is keenly aware of trends and new developments.. She embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, she hopes to improve their health and quality of life.