Good and balanced nutrition is critical for your health, now even more than ever, as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic.1,2 The COVID-19 pandemic has been posing severe health threats to people across the globe, and as of now, there is still no cure for the disease. Many people have already fallen prey to the virus, and while some lucky ones managed to recover, for many others, the disease has proven to be fatal.3
For those who have contracted the COVID-19 infection, the importance of nutrition cannot be stressed enough.4 Now that you are infected, your immune system has taken a severe beating from the virus, and it is in a weaker state than before.5 What you eat and drink while you are sick has a huge role to play in boosting your immune system to fight against the virus. This will also determine how quickly you are able to recover.6
The World Health Organization and many other healthcare organizations around the world have come up with many dietary and nutrition recommendations that should be followed by COVID patients.7 The common factor in all these guidelines is that a well-balanced diet for COVID patients must include all the essential macro- and micronutrients.
4 Most Important Things To Follow In A Covid-19 Nutrition Plan
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has released guidelines regarding proper nutrition for those affected by the novel coronavirus.8 The NHS recommends that people who are recovering from COVID-19 infection should increase their intake of proteins to help their body heal and carry out repairs. At the same time, more vitamins and minerals are needed to help speed up the process of healing. Such type of a COVID recovery diet will not only help a person get back their strength, but it will also boost their immune system and prevent them from catching other infections until they completely recover.
Diet, nutrition, and fluid intake are going to be of great importance when you have COVID-19. Keep in mind that the infection is likely to have an impact on your appetite and also impact your ability to taste, smell, and swallow. This is why a COVID-19 diet should keep these factors and your nutritional requirements in mind. Here are some of the most important things one needs to follow in a COVID-19 nutrition plan.
Increase Your Protein Intake
One of the most important things to be followed by people recovering from COVID-19 infection is to follow a protein-rich diet. Protein is the building block of muscles in the body, and consuming an adequate amount of protein will help you maintain your muscle mass. When you are infected with the novel coronavirus, you may end up losing some muscle mass if you are severely affected, and you will need protein to promote muscle growth.
Many studies have shown that consuming plenty of protein, especially after an illness, can help increase your muscle mass and also boost your strength.9,10
Protein is also needed to help your body repair itself after being infected. This is because proteins are the primary building blocks of your organs and tissues. Various studies have shown that increasing your protein intake after an illness can help speed up your recovery process.11,12
Here are some of the best protein-rich foods to have as you recover from COVID-19:
Eggs: Eggs are considered to be superfoods, and they are amongst the healthiest and most nutritious protein source you can get. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, brain nutrients, and antioxidants. While whole eggs are rich in protein, but egg whites are almost entirely made up of pure protein, which is why you should include more egg whites in your diet. One large egg has around six grams of protein.13
Almonds: Almonds are rich in many essential nutrients such as vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, calcium, and manganese. One ounce serving of almonds (around 23 almonds) provides you with six grams of protein and four grams of fiber. The vitamin E in almonds helps protect your cells from damage when you have an infection. Eating almonds helps boost your immune system when you have an illness like COVID-19 or even the flu or a common cold. You can include almonds in your diet by having almond milk, slivered almonds, and even almond butter.14
Oats: Oats are one of the healthiest grains available. They are rich in magnesium, manganese, vitamin B1 (thiamine), healthy fibers, and protein. One cup of oats has around 11 grams of protein. Include oats in your diet in the form of comfort food – oatmeal. Oatmeal helps stimulate the immune system and decreases inflammation in the body.15
Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese is low in fat and calories, and has many benefits for the body, especially when you are unwell. It is rich in phosphorus, calcium, vitamin B12, selenium, riboflavin (vitamin B12), and many other nutrients. One cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains around 28 grams of protein.16
Yogurt: You should try to include yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, in your COVID-19 diet plan. Yogurt contains eight grams of protein per cup, and being cold, it helps soothe your throat. Yogurt is also rich in many vitamins and minerals and calcium. Many yogurts also contain various beneficial probiotics, which you definitely want to include in your diet when you are sick. Evidence shows that probiotics can help heal you faster, reduce the duration of your sickness, and also ensure that you fall sick less often.17,18,19,20,21
Pulses, legumes, peanuts, milk, different types of cheese, soy, fish, and chicken are also some excellent sources of protein. You should ideally aim to keep an overall intake of protein between 75 to 100 grams per day.
Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods
When you have COVID-19, your immune system takes a beating, and you will need to replenish your immune response with much-needed vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This is why nutrient-dense foods should be an essential part of your COVID recovery diet.
You should choose plenty of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and also try to get at least 15 minutes of sunlight exposure every day to get vitamin D. For example, if you like fish, including salmon, would be a great idea as salmon (and other fatty fish) contain some of the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the optimal functioning of your body, especially when you are sick. Omega-3s are associated with a lower risk of many serious diseases, and they also improve your overall wellbeing.22
Another nutrient-dense superfood you should include in your diet as you recover from COVID-19 is kale. Kale is the king of all the healthy leafy green vegetables. It is a powerful source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and many bioactive compounds. It also contains huge amounts of vitamin C, A, K1, B6, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, and manganese. In fact, kale is known to be even healthier than spinach. The high levels of bioactive compounds in kale include indole-3-carbinol and isothiocyanates that have cancer-fighting properties.23,24
Garlic is another excellent nutrient-dense ingredient you should include in your COVID-19 diet. Not only does garlic add a dash of deliciousness to your dishes, but it is also highly nutritious. It is high in many vitamins, including B1, B6, and C. It also contains potassium, copper, calcium, selenium, and manganese.25 Garlic is also rich in allicin, which is a beneficial sulfur compound. Studies have shown that allicin has cancer-fighting properties, may help lower blood pressure, and boost your immune system. Raw garlic is a must-add ingredient in your diet as it is a potent antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.26,27
Calories are Important
You might be used to watching your calorie intake before you fell sick, but when you are suffering from COVID-19, you want to increase your calorie intake. The more calories you eat, the more energy you will have to fight off the infection, and it will also boost your ability to recover faster. This is why you should include calorie-dense foods, but make sure that you are not just eating empty calories. These calories should preferably come from healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, potatoes, pasta, bread, rice, avocados, milk, bananas, beetroots, oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, kidney beans, chickpeas, and apples.
Remember that it is only a myth that eating carbs are unhealthy. Some of the healthiest foods in the world are high in carbohydrates, and you should increase your consumption of these foods to fight off the infection and recover quickly.
Remain Well Hydrated
Whenever you are sick, your body ends up losing a lot of fluids. This is especially true if you are infected with the novel coronavirus. You are suffering from an infection and a fever, so you need to increase your intake of fluids to speed up your recovery.
Water also helps with the absorption of nutrients that you will be consuming at this time to boost your overall health. If you are properly hydrated, your kidneys will do a better job of filtering out waste from the body. At the same time, COVID-19 affects your upper respiratory tract, and drinking more water will help reduce congestion and thin out the mucus, allowing you to cough out and expel the mucus from the body.
Fever is another common symptom of COVID-19, and remaining hydrated will help you maintain your internal body temperature. A fever also draws out moisture from the body. Furthermore, the medicines you are taking may also dehydrate you from inside. So drinking plenty of water, soup, or juice can help keep you hydrated and make you feel better as it lessens the congestion.
You should try to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water every day, and include plenty of juices, soups, non-caffeinated beverages, herbal teas, broths, etc., in your diet. Avoid having too many caffeinated drinks as these may cause dehydration.28,29
Have Healthy Snacks
Everyone needs some snacks during the day to keep them going, especially when they are sick. However, when you are recovering from COVID-19, it is essential to avoid having unhealthy snacks or junk foods. Instead of having sweets or salty snacks, try to have healthier options like cheese, yogurt, nuts, seeds, chopped or dried fruits, carrot sticks, boiled eggs, or other healthy choices. These snacks will be nutritious, more filling, help boost your energy levels, and they will also benefit your immune system as it fights off the infection.
Dieting Tips For Covid 19 Patients
Recovering from COVID-19 is going to be a draining process, and you will need to watch your diet and make healthy choices to get back on your feet. Here are some dieting tips that can make a huge difference to your recovery process:
- Ditch the white rice and switch to brown rice.
- Replace sugary or carbonated drinks with water, unsweetened tea, or one cup of coffee.
- Switch to having sliced roasted chicken in your sandwich instead of using processed deli meat.
- Snack on crunchy vegetables, fruits, or nuts instead of chips.
- If you are craving something sweet, opt for a naturally sweet fruit instead of cookies and candy.
- Choose whole-grain bread over refined or white bread.
- Add Greek yogurt to your diet wherever possible.
- Eat eggs, especially in the morning, to start your day on a healthy note.
- Add a source of protein to each of your meals and even snacks. Nuts, dairy products, peanut butter, beans, lean meat, and beans are some good examples.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Avoid grilling or frying and opt for roasting or baking instead.
- Spend at least 15 to 20 minutes in the sunlight each day.
- Eat your greens first so that you finish them when you are the hungriest.
- Try to have whole fruits instead of fruit juices.
- Avoid having diet foods/diet sodas.
- Cook with healthy oils like avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, or coconut oil.
Remember that a lot is still unknown about the novel coronavirus infection and your best bet at a quicker recovery is to consume a healthy and well-balanced diet.
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