There are no foods that boost our immune systems and prevent or treat COVID-19. However, eating a healthy, balanced diet is still important for good health and normal immune function. Therefore, following your country’s dietary guidelines is still the recommended method to meet your nutritional needs and keep you healthy while in isolation.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are some of the most important foods that provide the vitamins, minerals and fiber our bodies need for good health and normal immune function.
We should try to eat at least 5 servings (about 400 g) of fruit and vegetables every day. Fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and juiced versions (maximum 1 serving per day) all count as serving.
Since different colored fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of vitamins, minerals and petrochemicals, you should make your daily meals as varied as possible.
Choose whole grains rather than refined grains
Unlike refined grains, whole grains retain most of the grain’s structure, as well as the layers that contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In addition, whole grains are also an important source of carbohydrates, which can give us energy and help us feel fuller for longer periods of time.
Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet. However, not all fats have the same effect on our health. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can help lower our LDL (bad cholesterol) cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.1 We can do this by eating fewer foods like fatty meat, high-fat dairy products, and tropical oils like coconut oil and add foods like nuts, oily fish, and vegetable oils like olive and rapeseed oil.
Cut down on foods and drinks that are high in fat, sugar, or salt
Foods and beverages high in fat, sugar, and salt like cookies, potato chips, chocolate, and sugary drinks can cause us to consume more calories than we need if we eat them in large quantities. Since these foods are often of low nutritional value, they are not needed for a healthy diet and should only be consumed in small amounts and eaten occasionally.
Pay attention to the portion sizes
It can be difficult to get the portion sizes right, especially when cooking at home. If we understand what the right portion looks like, we can stay in the energy balance and avoid overeating or under-eating. Not all foods have the same portion sizes. Check out our handy portion size tricks to better understand what a healthy serving is for different foods. Remember that children’s portions should be smaller!
Choose both vegetable and animal proteins
Proteins are necessary for the healthy functioning of our body and immune system. We can get proteins from both animal and vegetable sources such as beans, legumes, fish, eggs, dairy products and meat. Our protein needs change depending on the stage of life. Adults are recommended to eat at least 0.83 g of protein per kg of body weight per day, which is 58 g / day for an adult who weighs 70 kg.2 We should choose foods rich in protein that will not only help us meet our needs to cover, but also to support a healthy and sustainable diet.
- Drink enough water
Hydration is critical to overall health. The amount of water we need depends on our age, gender, weight, height, physical activity, and environmental conditions (i.e., in hot weather, you may need to drink more water). Taking into account that around 20-30% of the water we need comes from our food, the European Food Safety Authority has made average recommendations on how much water we should drink per day based on age (Figure 6).
- Get enough vitamin D in isolation
The sun is the best source of vitamin D, but it can be more difficult to get enough sun exposure to meet our needs during quarantine or self-isolation. Therefore, it is recommended that people who cannot go outside eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin D (Figure 7) and consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement. The recommended vitamin D intake for different age groups is:
15 µg / day for adults (18+ years), children (1 – 17 years) and pregnant people
10 µg / day for infants (7-11 months)
10 µg / day for breastfed infants (0 – 7 months)
- Stay safe when shopping for groceries
Grocery stores will remain open during the COVID 19 pandemic and there will be no need to store groceries as food supplies to stores remain stable.
However, the risk of contracting COVID-19 from touching contaminated food packaging is very small and there have been no reports of this form of infection. In stores, the greatest risk of contamination remains contact with other people and “frequently touched” surfaces such as scales, shopping trolley handles or elevator buttons, although many stores take steps to disinfect these surfaces. Therefore, we should keep a reasonable distance from other people, avoid touching our faces while shopping, and wash our hands, both after returning from the store and after handling the food packaging we bought. If you follow these hygiene measures, you will not have to disinfect the food packaging yourself.
- Pay attention to food safety
According to EFSA, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through food consumption. However, good food safety practices are important to minimize the risk of food borne diseases.
When handling or preparing food, pay attention to the following:
Before and after preparing or consuming food, wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds;
If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve and remember to wash your hands afterwards;
Wash fruits and vegetables with water before you eat them;
Disinfect all surfaces and items before and after use;
Keep raw and cooked foods separate to avoid transferring harmful microbes from raw to ready-to-eat foods;
Use different utensils / cutting boards for raw and cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination;
Make sure the food is cooked and heated to appropriate temperatures (≥72 ° C for 2 minutes).