In these times of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to eat healthy to help strengthen your immune system.
A stronger immune system decreases our risk of chronic illness and infectious disease, and helps us fight infection. This is particularly important when we are living amid a pandemic.
Vitamins C, D and zinc are key nutrients to ensure that our immune system is functioning at its peak to help us fight off infections, inflammation and swelling. Food is the preferred source of these nutrients, and you can find it in the following:
• Vitamin C, in fruits and vegetables.
• Vitamin D, in low-fat dairy, fortified milk alternatives and seafood.
• Zinc, in lean meat, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds.
A healthy meal plan emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products; and lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. It limits saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugar.
It’s also important to control portion sizes, as obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19.
Choose foods of various colors, such as red, orange, green, white, yellow, purple and blue. These foods are excellent sources of antioxidants, which help rid our body of toxins.
Another important thing you can do is drink lots of water, ideally eight to 10 cups of water daily. Water helps transport nutrients through our blood, regulates body temperature, assists with waste removal and lubricates and cushions our joints. Warm water is beneficial for respiratory health.
Limit alcohol, as it offers little nutritional benefit and is often harmful to our health.
While there is currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, it is always important to continue regular safe food handling and handwashing, which includes washing hands frequently, particularly when returning from the store, prior to food preparation and prior to eating.
You should also clean and disinfect kitchen counters before and after meal prep.
If you are having difficulty obtaining nutritious foods, call the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 866-3-HUNGRY or 877-8-HAMBRE to learn about meal sites, food banks or other social-service agencies available near you.
Renee Slabic, a registered dietitian, is clinical nutrition manager, food and nutrition, at Saint Vincent Hospital.