- Covid-19 is the biggest global challenge that threatens.
- Research proved that the right nutrition could help fight against Covid-19.
- There are proven scientific recommendations about how the Covid-19 diet should look like.
We live in unprecedented times.
Covid-19 is the biggest global challenge that threatens not only public health but also the global economy. 😷
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has warned that the Covid-19 coronavirus is the global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War II (1).
Although wearing masks, frequent hand washing, and maintaining social distance are essential, these are external ways to protect against the Covid-19 virus.
To fight internally, you have to strengthen your inner body. 💪
For this, you have to improve your immune system and control pre-existing diseases.
How can you do that?
You can improve your immune system by proper nutrition or following the Covid-19 Diet.
Covid-19 pandemic forces us to adopt a healthy lifestyle. 😇
This pandemic proved to us that there are so many things our medical science doesn’t know till now. So, we should strengthen our body and mind for future situations.
At least we can take steps to maintain healthy body weight, improve our immunity power and control our pre-existing diseases.
So it is more than important to know about Covid-19 Diet.
In this article, I will tell you everything about the Covid-19 Diet and Nutrition.
First, you must have an idea about what Covid-19 is.
Table of Contents
- What is Coronavirus?
- What is Covid-19?
- How Covid-19 Spread?
- What are the Symptoms of Covid-19?
- How does Nutrition affect Covid-19?
- The Covid-19 Diet (Tips)
- Sample Covid-19 Diet Plan
- Final Word
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can be pathogenic to humans and animals.
In humans, several coronaviruses can cause more or less serious respiratory infections. It ranges from the common cold to more serious conditions like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
On January 9, 2020, a new coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan city, China. This is SARS-Cov2, responsible for the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Summary: Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause respiratory infections like common cold, MERS and SARS.
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2, which was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (3).
SARS-Cov-2 is first referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “nCoV-2019”.
Later it was renamed “2019 coronavirus disease” (COVID-19) – “CO” for corona, “VI” for virus, and “D” for disease.
It is a respiratory virus that spreads very easily through the air.
Summary: Covid-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2, which can cause respiratory problems and has already taken millions of lives worldwide.
How Covid-19 Spread?
The SARS-Cov-2 virus spread primarily through close person-to-person contact.
A person can become infected and transmit the virus to others even without showing symptoms. This is why keeping a distance between people is one of the best ways to slow the spread of the virus. 😷
Covid-19 can spread in three ways: through the air, by direct contact, and by indirect contact.
Through Air: SARS-CoV-2 can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets and aerosols when an infected person coughs, sneezes, screams, or even speaks.
The size of the droplets varies, ranging from large respiratory droplets to small aerosols.
Large respiratory droplets fall quickly to the ground due to gravity (within seconds or minutes) near the infected person. However, small aerosols can remain in the air because their weight is very little.
Then the virus can enter into another person when infectious droplets or aerosols come into direct contact with the mucous membranes of another person’s nose, mouth, or eyes or the person inhale the infected air by mouth or nose.
By Direct Contact: SARS-CoV-2 virus can also spread when an infected person touches another person. For example, the infected person may touch his mouth and shake hands with you without washing his hand.
By Indirect Contact: The virus can also spread through the surface or object. For example, an infected delivery boy may touch his mouth and deliver the parcel to you with his infected hand.
The coronavirus can survive between 4 to 72 hours, depending on the contaminated object (4).
A US study found that Covid-19 survives until:
72 hours on plastic;
48 hours on stainless steel;
24 hours on the carton;
4 hours on copper.
However, the duration of virus resistance does not only depend on the material of the contaminated surface. Other parameters such as temperature and humidity are also taken into account (5).
Summary: Covid-19 virus can spread very easily through the air, by direct contact, and by indirect contact. It also can survive from 4 to 72 hours.
What are the Symptoms of Covid-19?
Many symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of the flu, the common cold, and other conditions. So a test is required to confirm if someone has COVID-19.
Symptoms can appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus and can range from mild to very severe. Some infected people do not have any symptoms at all (6).
The World Health Organization (WHO) establishes that the most common symptoms of coronavirus are the following (7):
- Dry cough
Other less common symptoms of coronavirus include the following:
- Aches and pains
- Throat pain
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Skin rashes or loss of color on the fingers or toes
The severe symptoms of coronavirus are:
- Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Inability to speak or move
Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without the need for hospital treatment. About 1 in 5 people who get COVID-19 develop a serious illness and have trouble breathing.
Older people and those with underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart or lung problems, diabetes, or cancer, are more likely to develop serious illnesses.
However, anyone can get COVID-19 and develop a serious illness. Even people with very mild symptoms of COVID-19 can transmit the virus (8).
People of all ages who have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath should seek medical attention. 🚑
Summary: Most common Covid-19 symptoms are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. In some people, it can cause serious respiratory problems.
How does Nutrition affect Covid-19?
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of healthy eating because research shows that the most vulnerable groups are people with obesity and obesity-related comorbidities (9).
Although there are no published nutrition studies in the context of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), healthy eating plays an important role in how our body feel and function (10).
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, malnutrition or a diet lacking one or more nutrients can impair the production and function of our immune cells and antibodies (11).
In short, along with other factors, like age, weight, pre-existing disease, lifestyle, nutrition plays an important role in how our body performs before, during, and after Covid-19 infection.
Now let me tell you the Covid-19 Diet tips which you must follow. 👩⚕️
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) shared different nutrition tips. Here I have compiled them all for your convenience.
Please note that the following recommendations wouldn’t cure Covid-19, nor will protect you directly.
However, these evidence-based recommendations will improve your immune system, which will help you to fight against Covid-19. 😀
Summary: To fight Covid-19, your immune system must be strong. Healthy eating is one of the best ways to strengthen the immune system.
The Covid-19 Diet (Tips)
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), eating a healthy diet is essential to strengthen the immune system and face the spread of the COVID-19 disease (12).
Please note that one diet cannot apply to everyone in the world. It varies based on access, income, habits, and culture. This is why I will not give you a ready-to-apply Covid-19 diet plan.
However, there are proven scientific recommendations about how the Covid-19 diet should look like. 🍽
Here are 9 Covid-19 Diet tips:
1. Eat a Variety of Foods:
Almost all country’s dietary guidelines recommend eating a variety of foods. Because different foods have different nutrients and our body needs them all daily to function properly. It minimizes the risk of malnutrition (13)
More than 100 countries worldwide have developed food-based dietary guidelines adapted to the health situations, food availability, culinary cultures, and eating habits of their populations. Check your country’s dietary guidance here.
For example, in the UK, the NHS’s Eatwell Guide divides foods into food groups (starchy carbohydrates, fruit and veg, dairy or dairy alternatives, proteins, and fats) (14). This guide advises people to eat a certain amount of food from each food group.
According to WHO, eat a combination of whole grains such as wheat, corn, or rice, legumes such as lentils or beans, plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, and some animal-based foods such as meat, fish, eggs, or milk every day (15).
The general recommendation is to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day in different colors: purple, red, yellow, orange, and green.
Summary: Eating a variety of whole foods allows you to get all the nutrients necessary to healthy life and strong immunity.
2. Drink Enough Water:
Our immune system is highly dependent on the nutrients in our bloodstream, and our bloodstream is made mostly of water (16).
If we don’t drink enough water, our bloodstream cannot transport the nutrients to each organ system.
Also, proper hydration regulates your body temperature, detoxifies the body, decreases stress level, and lubricates and cushions the joints.
Did you know that we lose water through breathing, sweat, urine, and bowel movement every day?
So it’s crucial to drink enough water to stay hydrated.
Now, how much water to drink? 🤔
The answer is it depends. There is no single formula that fits everyone.
WHO recommends drinking at least 8-10 cups of water every day (17).
The Institute of Medicine recommends men should drink around 3.7 liters a day and women should drink approximately 2.7 liters a day (18).
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages, and food. About 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks (19).
However, I recommend my clients drink a minimum of half their body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink a minimum of 75 ounces of water daily.
If you are physically active, athletes, drink coffee or alcohol, you need more water. My formula is for every cup of coffee, add one cup of water. And for one cup of alcohol, add 2 cups of water.
In addition to that, drink water whenever you feel thirsty. 💧
Remember that proper hydration is essential for every organ system in your body, including your immune system.
Summary: Water is the main ingredient of our blood. Without enough water, our blood can’t carry necessary nutrients and our health suffers.
3. Limit your Fat and Oil Intake
Fat is a macronutrient essential to our body. Because it fulfills bodies’ energy needs and supports cell growth. Fat also helps our body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients and produce some hormones (20).
Fat also provides flavor and palatability to food (21).
Therefore, fats are a fundamental nutrient for life. On a fat-free diet, there will be no healthy life. 🧈
There are four types of dietary fats available in our diet (22):
- Saturated fats (butter, whole dairy products, coconut and palm oils, fatty meat, and meat products (hamburgers, sausages, etc.)
- Trans fats (Savory biscuits, industrial pastries, and pastries, products prepared with hydrogenated fats, frozen pizzas, etc.)
- Monounsaturated fats ( Olive oil, olives, avocado, almonds, and hazelnuts)
- Polyunsaturated fats (Omega-3: Bluefish and walnuts; Omega-6: Sunflower, corn, soy, and peanut oils)
Consuming a high amount of fats – regardless of the types, can lead to weight gain.
Health experts recommend replacing saturated fats and trans fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats – while still maintaining a nutritionally adequate diet (23).
Because study shows that unsaturated fat may influence T helper cell activity and therefore antibody production (24).
Whereas saturated fat ‘Short-Circuits’ immune cells and triggers inflammation (25).
In the Covid-19 Diet, WHO recommends limiting total fat intake to less than 30% of total energy intake, of which no more than 10% should come from saturated fat (26).
You can do that by following tips: 👇
- Replace butter, ghee, and lard with the healthiest alternative like olive, soy, sunflower, or corn oil when cooking.
- Choose white meat (e.g., poultry) and fish rather than red meat. Because red meat contains more fat than white meat.
- Choose leaner cuts of red meat and pork and trim as much visible fat as possible before cooking.
- Avoid processed meats because they are high in fat and salt.
- Where possible, opt for low-fat or reduced-fat versions of milk and dairy products.
- Avoid industrially produced, fried, and baked foods. Because they contain trans fat.
- Try steaming or boiling instead of frying food when cooking. It will limit your fat and oil use.
- Read the nutritional information on all products. Many of the fat-free products are very high in carbohydrates, which can raise triglyceride levels.
- For a snack, instead of French fries, have popcorn without butter.
Remember, good fats are an essential part of your diet, but it’s still important to moderate your consumption because all fats are high in calories.
Summary: Limiting saturated fat and completely avoiding trans fat is one of the easy ways to manage your cholesterol level and body weight.
4. Limit your Salt and Sugar Intake
You may already know that too much salt is bad for your health.
Yes! This is true. 👍
Consuming too much salt can cause cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer (27).
Excess salt will also harm our immune system. Consuming additional six grams of salt per day showed pronounced immune deficiencies (28).
Yale School of Medicine found that too much salt can spur the growth of immune cells involved in numerous autoimmune disorders (29).
So, how much salt is recommended?
WHO recommends adults should limit their salt intake to 5 grams per day (equivalent to one teaspoon) (30).
Now, what about sugar?
You also have to limit your sugar intake.
Did you know 74% of packaged foods contain added sugar (31)?
And added sugar is linked to several chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), cognitive decline, and even some cancers (32).
Even one study shows too much sugar affects cellular and humoral immune responses in Drosophila (33).
Now, how much sugar is recommended? 🤔
American Heart Association (AHA) recommends men should limit to 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or nine teaspoons) from sugar, and women should limit to 100 calories per day (25 grams or six teaspoons) from sugar (34).
In contrast, the US dietary guidelines advise people to limit their sugar intake to less than 10% of their daily calorie intake (35).
Summary: Consuming more than 5 grams of salt per day can cause cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and pronounced immune deficiencies.
5. Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has a unique structure that helps it to enter and attach to the lung cells. Then it takes over the cell function to replicate its genetic material using the infected cell (36, 37).
Smoking cigarettes (tobacco) and even marijuana initiate the inflammatory response in the lungs, which releases excess cytokines (also called cytokine storm) (38).
Cytokine storms can worsen the inflammation in the lungs caused by the covid 19 viruses (39).
This is not all. Smokers have extensively damaged lungs, and there is a high chance that their bodies will not be able to fight off the infection (40).
Also, in the case of alcohol drinking, our body is working like hell on a micro-level.
When we consume food, it is broken down into absorbable nutrients. But alcohol isn’t metabolized in the same way. Our body always tries to expel it, as our body cannot store it (41).
Alcohol keeps our body busy to eliminate it. So our body can’t focus on other important tasks (42).
Drinking can also trigger inflammation in the gut, even destroy the microorganisms that live in the intestine, and maintain immune system health (43).
Binge drinking has also been known to reduce the presence of certain white blood cells, which play a significant role in the immune system in fighting off infections (44).
Summary: Avoiding alcohol and tobacco is the easiest way to protect your health, especially lung and gut.
6. Avoid Processed Food
Chemically processed foods or cosmetic foods tend to be high in sugar, artificial ingredients, refined carbohydrates, and trans fats. 🤮
These foods taste good and are often inexpensive. For this reason, processed or fast food now accounts for 25-60% of a person’s daily energy intake throughout much of the world (47).
However, everyone knows that these foods are not suitable for our health (47).
To be specific, processed foods can destroy our gut bacteria which are responsible for food breakdown and nutrient absorption. Even it helps to grow harmful bacteria and yeast, which can negatively affect your immune health (48).
Processed foods also trigger the inflammatory response to protect our cells and tissues from excess salt, sugar, and unhealthy fat. This could impair our immune system’s ability to respond to fight the covid 19 viruses (48).
Summary: Although processed foods taste good and are often inexpensive, it can trigger inflammatory responses which can impair your immune system.
7. Prefer Home-cooked Meals
Eating out may be fun, delicious, and convenient. 😋
But along with these benefits, restaurant foods come with so many adverse side effects.
For example, typical restaurant foods are high in salt, chemical additives, hormones, sugar, unhealthy fats, and calories (49).
Researchers at Silent Spring Institute, US, found a correlation between eating at home and having lower levels of PFAS in the blood (50).
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that humans have created. They are present in packaged foods, household products, kitchen appliances, and contaminated water, among other sources.
PFAS do not break down and, therefore, build up with time. Also, exposure to PFAS is linked to cholesterol, body weight, and insulin resistance (51).
CDC/ATSDR recognizes that exposure to high levels of PFAS may impact the immune system and reduce antibody responses to vaccines (52).
Family meals are an excellent opportunity for parents to be role models for healthy eating and strengthen family relationships. 👨👩👦
Summary: Restaurant foods often contain chemicals, which may weaken your immune system and reduce antibody responses to vaccines.
8. Take Advantage of Food Delivery Options
Although home-cooked meals should be prioritized, some cities have food and meal delivery facilities. 📦
Covid patients and caregivers are recommended to stay at home as much as possible to stop the spread.
You can take advantage of online vegetables, fruits, and other grocery delivery options in this situation.
But stay away from ready-made meal delivery options. Because they often come from typical restaurants, which may contain excess salt, sugar, oil, and other chemical additives.
Summary: Avoid going out as much as possible. There may be many services out there in your locality where you can order vegetables, fruits, and other groceries online.
9. Follow Safe Food Handling Practices
Only safe food is healthy food. 🍲
Proper food handling is a must when cooking at home because they lack awareness and can cause food poisoning.
When preparing food for yourself and others, it is important to follow good food hygiene practices to avoid food contamination and foodborne diseases.
In the 1990s, WHO created ten rules for safe food practice. You can read it here:
Also, the FDA published a safe food handling guide here.
In general, follow these tips: buy fresh food, clean with safe water, cook thoroughly and keep food at a safe temperature.
Summary: To handle foods safely, follow these tips: buy fresh food, clean with safe water, cook thoroughly and keep food at a safe temperature.
These are the nine tips for the covid-19 diet.
Finally, in no case does food by itself prevent or cure the infection by the new coronavirus. However, having a healthy, varied, and balanced eating pattern can bring the covid-19 patient closer to a good nutritional state, reduce the risk of malnutrition, and improve the body’s defense mechanisms, positively affecting their recovery.
Now, as I promised, this is the sample Covid-19 Diet chart. 😀
Sample Covid-19 Diet Plan
Early morning: 10-20ml of amla juice/apple cider vinegar/lemon juice with one glass of warm water.
Breakfast: 30-40 gms of oats /dalia/corn-flakes/wheat-flakes/idli/plain dosa/4 brown bread + 1 scrambled eggs/ 150 ml of milk with turmeric
Mid-morning snack: Any citrus food like oranges.
Lunch: 2-3 chapati/ 2 cups of rice, 1 cup of green veggies, salad (carrot and cucumber), 1 cup of lentil soup, 1 cup of curd
Evening: Fistful of nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashew) and seeds (flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds) or roasted chana (chickpeas) + Green tea/regular tea with jaggery or honey.
Dinner: 2-3 chapati/ 2 cups of rice, 1 cup of green veggies, salad (carrot and cucumber), 1 cup of lentil soup, 1 cup of curd.
Bedtime: 150 ml of milk with turmeric and five almonds.
Feel free to modify the items as your taste or food availability.
Summary: You can eat healthy with common foods available to you. There is no secret food. Healthy eating is key.
The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as covid-19, continues to spread rapidly worldwide.
An adequate diet and nutritional support for these patients are essential to satisfy basic nutritional needs. 🤒
The diet for patients with covid-19 aims to prevent loss of lean body mass and improve lung function.
My final advice is “do not panic” if you are the patient or caregivers. 😇
Follow these tips, follow your government advice and help others if possible.
This article is written by a certified nutritionist and verified by scientific evidence. We rely on reputed and specialized media sites, academic research institutions, peer-reviewed studies, government agencies, and medical associations to source information. Know more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
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