No specific food or diet can help boost your immune system and prevent COVID-19, expert says

Spoiler alert! Everyone can get COVID-19. Lalitha Taylor, an award-winning, registered dietitian from Edmonton, Alberta says that there is no special diet to boost one’s immunity let alone prevent getting infected by the virus.

If you have watched the movie Contagion where actor Matt Damon plays the role of a husband and a dad who has a strong immune system making him sort of “immune” of the contagious disease, you might also think that is the answer to not get COVID-19. Unfortunately, the reality of the pandemic where fighting today is extremely different from the movie.

Although no specific diet can make us immune to the disease, Taylor says that almost all nutrients can help our immune system in their unique way.

Do we need to take supplements to ensure we get all the nutrients we need?

Lalitha Taylor, RD

According to Taylor, we mostly get enough nutrients with the food we eat and that’s if you have a healthy and balanced eating habit. Having enough animal-based or plant-based protein, vegetables, and fruits on every meal is recommended. Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Selenium can also help support our immune system.

“Taking high doses of these vitamins and minerals are not required to boost our immunity,”

Now if you think you need to get these supplements, it’s best to consult with a dietitian first. In that way, they will be able to assess your nutrition and your eating habits. There also some cases when doctors recommend patients to take certain supplements depending on situations.

What are good sources of Vitamin C, Zinc, and Selenium?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps support our immunity and may play a role in preventing certain diseases. There are a variety of fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamin C such as oranges, strawberries, lemon, broccoli, cauliflower, and bell pepper. (Trivia: bell peppers have more Vitamin C than oranges!)

Selenium is a mineral that also works to keep you healthy. It is often found in seafood, whole-grain cereals, wheat germ, and Brazil nuts.

Zinc plays an important role in helping heal wounds, infection, and improving your metabolism. Good sources of zinc include beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, oysters, red meat and poultry.

“Everytime you eat something, try to add some fruits and vegetables on your plate to bump up your exposure to vitamins and minerals”

Lalitha Taylor, RD

Why do some people have a weaker immune system?

Disorders and diseases can weaken the immune system and cause an individual to be immunocompromised which reduces their ability to fight other infections and diseases — making them easy targets of COVID-19.

According to Taylor, everyone must continue practising physical distancing, proper hygiene, washing hands for at least 20 seconds. And this is regardless if you feel perfectly healthy or not!

Taylor also mentioned some good quarantine food to include on your weekly groceries. Although pasta, rice, and noodles are great energy-giving foods, she is encouraging everyone to include protein, fruits, and vegetables on their list. Protein helps create anti-bodies so that the immune system can do its job-fighting viruses and bacteria. You can also buy frozen and canned veggies to store.

Is this whole self-isolation, social distancing setup getting mentally and emotionally exhausting? Taylor shares some personal advice that can help us during this quarantine season.

  • Focus on something positive each day. Not all days will be good and that’s okay. Contact friends and family.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet as best as you can. Have some proteins, fruits and veggies, as well as healthy fats!
  • Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep. If you’re not sleeping well this can exacerbate stress and cause you to have less energy to prepare healthy meals and exercise.
  • Find ways to reduce stress — read a book, find a new hobby, meditate, etc.
  • Be active, even just for 10 minutes. Dance, do some home workouts or walk up and down the stairs.

Taylor has practised as a dietitian for 15 years in clinical and primary care practice. She recently opened her own private practice, Taylor Nutrition. She is also the current nutrition columnist for CBC Edmonton Radio.

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