How to stay healthy amid a pandemic: Outsmarting the virus with the right diet

Citrus fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C such as peppers, leafy greens, and broccoli can help to boost the immune system, reducing the likelihood of getting sick // Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.

Over the last few weeks, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has gone from a distant notion to a present reality. 

As of now, no available vaccine exists for the virus. Even the speediest vaccines take many months to create, test, and implement. Worry permeates the minds of many as there is no definite way to prevent infection. 

Quarantining at home is the smartest answer–by limiting interaction with others, the spread of the virus is slowed down, therefore helping to “flatten the curve.” Individuals who quarantine at home lower the risk of their catching the virus.

However, many people still have to buy groceries, get gas, and go to work. As COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, immune strength is essential. 

Lemons are a great way to boost the immune system. Rich in Vitamin C, lemons improve the function of the body’s “natural killer cells,” which help to get rid of infections and aid in antimicrobial activity, according to agribusiness Limoneira. Vitamin C boosts the body’s cells and protects them from oxidative damage. 

The study cited by the aforementioned website also mentions zinc as a natural immune booster. Both zinc and lemons help the body resist infections and reduce the severity and length of an infection within the body. The study’s findings are applicable to pneumonia, which those with coronavirus are at risk of.

According to The Detroit News, a 92-year-old man who contracted COVID-19 beat the virus credited his recovery to zinc and hydroxychloroquine, a controversial malaria drug whose effectiveness is frequently debated.

Vitamin C and zinc supplements are available at most pharmacies and can readily be implemented into one’s existing diet. Otherwise, citric fruits and vegetables including peppers, leafy greens, and broccoli all contain Vitamin C. Zinc naturally occurs in food products such as meat, dairy, nuts, and legumes.

Healthy eating in general is said to help maintain a strong immune system. Plant foods contain antioxidants that fight inflammation-causing compounds called radicals within the body. Healthy fats like those found in fish and nuts also help to decrease inflammation, according to Healthline

Eating fermented and probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, pickled vegetables, kimchi, and sauerkraut contribute to a “healthy intestinal microbiome,” which boost the immune system, according to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing. The healthy bacteria found in these foods contribute to the effective functioning of immune cells. 

In addition to eating nutrient-rich foods, there are also foods that individuals ought to limit their intake of, including those with added sugars. Sugar is credited to be a natural poison and is linked to a plethora of health problems including increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. According to a study published by PubMed.gov, there is an increased risk of contracting influenza among vaccinated adults who are obese. The study in mention took place over the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 influenza seasons and showed that obese adults were twice as likely as healthy-weight adults to become infected.

Sugar also leads to more rapid cellular aging. This leads to the weakening of the cells that help to fight disease, including white blood cells, which protect the body from infectious diseases. According to ghrnet.org, glucose (sugar) intake has “direct and severe effects on the immune system.” The site notes that by drinking one liter of soda or by intaking 100 grams of sugar, white blood cells’ reactivity decreases by 40 percent, which then disables the immune system for four to five hours. In addition, sugar has the same chemical structure as Vitamin C, meaning the two compete within the body. The greater one’s sugar intake is, the weaker the immune-boosting effect of vitamin-C. 

Regardless of whether or not one is directly at risk of contracting COVID-19, maintaining a strong immune system is incredibly important, and there are various means to go about doing so, dietary choices being among the most important and effective.

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