Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Simply put, there are no foods that can "boost" our immune system and prevent or treat COVID-19. Nevertheless, having a healthy, balanced diet is still essential for a healthy and well-functioning immune system. Therefore, following our countries' dietary guidelines is always the recommended way to meet our nutritional needs and protect our health during confinement. Here we will discuss the principles of healthy eating during the quarantine.
1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are among the most important foods that provide the vitamins, minerals, and fiber our bodies need for good health and a healthy immune system.
We should try to eat at least 5 servings (equivalent to about 400 g) of fruits and vegetables each day. In fresh, frozen, dried, liquid, and canned forms (maximum 1 serving per day), they all count as one serving.
2. Whole grains are preferable to refined cereals
Unlike refined cereals, whole grains maintain most of their structure and retain the layers that contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole grains also provide an important source of carbohydrates that give us energy and can help us feel full longer.
3. 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 us lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.1 We can do this by cutting down on foods such as fatty meats, high-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut oil, and by adding foods such as nuts, fatty fish, and vegetable oils including olive and canola oil.
4. Avoid high-fat, sugar and salt foods and beverages
Foods and beverages high in fat, sugar, and salts, such as cookies, potato chips, chocolate, and sweetened beverages, can cause us to consume more calories than we need if we eat them in quantity. As these foods often provide little nutritional value, they are not necessary for a healthy diet and should be eaten in small amounts and eaten occasionally.
5. Choose both vegetable and animal proteins
Proteins are essential to the proper functioning of our body and immune system. We can get protein from both animal and vegetable sources, such as beans, legumes, fish, eggs, dairy products, and meats. We should choose high-protein foods which promote healthy and sustainable nutrition.
Where access to fresh meat and fish is limited, those that are frozen and canned may represent suitable and nutritional alternatives. However, as the fat and salt content may be high in some canned meat and fish, it is important to check the label and choose products that are low in fat and salt. Vegetable proteins, such as legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, also have a long shelf life and can ensure proper meals or snacks that are rich in protein and nutrients.
6. Staying hydrated
Staying hydrated is essential to overall health. The amount of water we need depends on our age, gender, weight, height, level of physical activity, and environmental conditions (e.g. you should drink more water when it is hot). Considering that about 20-30% of the water we need comes from food.
If access to tap water is safe, it is the healthiest and cheapest drink. For a refreshing boost, you can add slices of lemon or cucumber, a little mint or berries. Other drinks, such as sugar-free coffee, sparkling water, sugar-free infusion, iced tea or sugar-free infused or flavored water is also a good choice for hydration.
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