Nutrition during COVID-19 has become more important day by day while the COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than 69 million people and taken nearly 1,5 million people’s lives worldwide. A recent review takes a look at vitamins and specific minerals' role on the immune system.
While precautions focus primarily on social distancing, therapeutics, and hygiene, there are serious underlying vulnerabilities in individuals infected by the coronavirus. The vulnerable factors include advanced age, obesity, systemic coagulopathy or thrombosis, acute respiratory failure, inflammation, immunodeficiency, and neuropathologies.
Nutritional intake during COVID-19 and other supplements and herbs including various combinations and compositions, support metabolism and physiology required for health. A balanced diet, with good nutrients, is vital to health and supports normal B and T cell functions for optimal disease-reducing immunity.
A recent review describes the role of nutrition in COVID-19. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and specific minerals play a significant role in the physiology of the immune system.
Vitamin A improves responses to vaccines and augments both cellular and humoral immunity. The daily recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin A is 900 mcg/d for men and 700mcg/d for women.
Sources: Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, beef, liver, eggs, shrimp, fish, pumpkins, mangoes
Vitamin D supports innate immune responses to influenza A-B, parainfluenza 1–2. Low vitamin D status is associated with an increased risk of both upper and lower respiratory tract infections. Thus, vitamin D status appears to play a role in antiviral immunity. Depending on vitamin D status, immunity could be compromised, especially in the elderly. The daily recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin D is 600 IU for both men and women.
Sources: Fortified milk and cereals, fatty fish
Related: Importance of Getting Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin E deficiency is known to impair both humoral and cellular immunity. Additionally, the fat-soluble vitamins serve a role in tissue growth. The daily recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin E is 15 mg for men and women.
Sources: Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils
There is currently no evidence that any supplement can ‘boost’ our immune system and treat or prevent any viral infections, except Vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the major constituents of water-soluble vitamins which tends to make a strong immune system. The daily recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin C is 90mg/d for men and 75mg/d for women.
Sources: Citrus fruit, potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts
Trace elements that support immune functions include Zn, Cu, and Mg.
Zinc (Zn): meat, shellfish, legumes, whole grains
Copper (Cu): shellfish, nuts, seeds, whole-grain products, beans, prunes
Magnesium (Mg): Spinach, broccoli, legumes, seeds, whole-wheat bread
Additionally, essential fatty acids also have modulating effects on immunity and inflammatory processes. The essential fatty acids and related long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) support immune functions. A balanced diet must include adequate essential fatty acids and both n-6 (sunflower oil, avocado) and n-3 (fatty fish, rapeseed oil and linseed oil, walnuts) for the immune system and control inflammation.
Other than that here are some important guidelines on nutrition in COVID-19;
- Eat fruits daily (guava, apple, banana, strawberry, cantaloupe melon, grapefruit, pineapple, papaya, orange, Longman fruit, blackcurrant, pummelo) with a serving size of two cups (4 servings).
- Eat whole grains and nuts, 180 g of grains (unprocessed maize, oats, wheat, millet, brown rice, or roots such as potato)
- Use nuts like almonds, coconut, and pistachio.
- Eat fresh vegetables (green bell peppers, garlic, ginger, kale, lime, coriander (dried), broccoli, green chili pepper) 2.5 cups of vegetables (5 servings) legumes (beans and lentils).
- Red meat can be eaten once or twice per week, and poultry 2−3 times per week. Use foods from animal sources (e.g. fish, fish, eggs, and milk) and 160 g of meat and beans.
- For snacks, choose fresh fruits and raw vegetables rather than foods that are high in sugar, salt, or fat. Avoid irregular snacking.
- Do not overcook vegetables as it leads to the loss of important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
- When using dried or canned fruits and vegetables, choose varieties without added sugar or salt.
- Make sure the food is prepared and served at acceptable temperatures (≥72°C for 2 mins).
- Limit the salt intake to 5 grams a day.
- Consume unsaturated fats (found in avocado, fish, nuts, soy, olive oil, canola, corn oil, and sunflower) rather than saturated fats (found in butter, fatty meat, coconut, and palm oils, cheese, ghee, and cream).
- Drink 8–10 glasses of water every day. It helps to transport nutrients in the blood, gets rid of waste, and regulates the body temperature.
- Avoid all fizzy, carbonated, concentrated juices, and all drinks which contain sugar.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle of exercise, meditation, and regular sleep. Adequate sleep will help to support immune functioning.
Unfortunately, by the time an individual gets a COVID-19 infection, the benefits of nutrition-based interventions can do little to mitigate or reverse the course of the disease. However, proper nutrition during COVID-19 can help improve immune responses and aid inflammatory processes.