Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2). It can cause continuous cough, fever, loss/change in sense of smell or taste.
Coronavirus may cause more severe symptoms in individuals with weakened immune systems, older people, and people with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease.
Proper nutrition and hydration are important to tackle this disease and help manage the symptoms. A well-balanced diet can optimize the function of the immune system, improve metabolism, and can help prevent the development of chronic symptoms associated with COVID-19.
It is recommended that a diet with a spread of fresh and unprocessed foods is followed daily, to provide the body with the required vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, protein, and antioxidants. A correct diet will make sure that the body is in a proper state to defeat the virus!
However, in addition to dietary management guidelines – food safety management, and smart food practices are important to prevent the spread of the virus.
Few modifications in your daily routine which can help in good recovery include:
Adequate protein intake is required to prevent muscle loss and maintain metabolic functions. Loss of muscle can lead to weakness, fatigue, and inability to perform daily activities. Protein deficiency is additionally connected to impaired immune system function and might worsen symptoms and result in an extended recovery time.
Try to include a portion of protein-rich food in every meal. Vegetarians can include 2-3 servings/day of pulses, dal, soya, milk & milk products, nuts, and seeds. Also, besan, sattu, khichdi, peanut, paneer, curd, and mushrooms are good options. Non-vegetarians can include all of these along with lean meat like eggs, chicken, and fish in their diet.
Reduce intake of excessive fat and opt for cooking methods that require less or no fat, such as steaming, grilling, or sautéing instead of frying foods. Choose foods that contain healthy sources of unsaturated fats, like fish and nuts.
To limit saturated fats, trim excess fat from meat and poultry and opt for skinless options. Scale back on foods like red and fatty meats, butter and full-fat dairy products, palm oil, shortening, and lard. Avoid including trans fats in your meals as much as possible.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants present in colorful fruits, and vegetables facilitate a speedy recovery. Try to include at least 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables daily meal plan. You can add fruits to your milkshakes or smoothies and consume seasonal vegetables in forms such as cooked, sautéed, steamed, or boiled.
Note: Ensure raw produce is cleaned well and proper hygiene is followed.
Recent research shows probiotics can help boost the immune system. Healthy bacteria found in probiotics will help the gut and intestinal tract fight off disease-causing germs. Yogurt, kefir, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha are loaded with probiotics.
Probiotics support the growth of good bacteria, which plays an important role in balancing your body’s good bacteria and are stored in the gut. These healthy bacteria help balance your digestion, immunity, and metabolism.
Super fighter Vitamin C
Vitamin C protects you from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights free radicals present in the body. Include more vitamin C in your diet with citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines, or red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, tomatoes, guavas, broccoli, kiwi, and chilies.
Adequate zinc is crucial for the development and function of the immune system and may help wounds to heal. Zinc can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans, pumpkin seeds, and nuts.
Eggs contain selenium, a powerful antioxidant that plays a key role in cell health. Other sources include seafood, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, grains, and dairy products.
Small frequent meals
Every 2-3 hours helps in fulfilling your nutritional requirement as well as prevents GI-related complications like inflammation, gastritis, bloating, heaviness, acidity.
Staying hydrated with water and clear liquids is vital, even if you do not feel thirsty to replace fluid losses and thin respiratory secretions. If respiratory secretions are not thinned, it can lead to pneumonia. Take sips of water, and also try infused waters with fruit, mint, lemon for better taste.
Add diluted fruit juices, clear soups, rasams, smoothies to meet the calorie and water requirements. Avoid too much tea/coffee as caffeine tends to increase heart rate and dehydration.
Herbal Immune boosters
A lot of herbs and spices can be used during this phase due to their potential for possessing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties.
- Kadha – Suggested by the Ministry of AYUSH containing spices like cloves, dry ginger, and black pepper decoction for boosting immunity.
- Turmeric milk with black pepper – Suggested due to its pro-inflammatory and immune properties
- Herbs – Like mint, tulsi, basil made into teas help with antioxidants, improving taste, digestion, and immunity.
Diet plan for COVID-19 affected patients
Following this sample meal plan with three small, but balanced, meals and light snacks throughout the day will give you an idea of what to eat as part of your quarantine protocol. You can mix and match the following as per your choice.
Early Morning (6 – 7 am)
1 glass of lukewarm lemon water with cinnamon + five soaked almonds and walnuts.
Breakfast options (After 30 minutes)
- Palak besan cheela 2 nos with green chutney and 1 cup curd/
- Oats porridge with nuts, seeds + one bowl of fruit/
- Two dosas with less oil + 1 cup sambar/
- Vegetable omelet (2 egg whites and 1 whole egg) with 2 slices whole-wheat or multigrain bread
Mid-morning snack options (10 – 11 am)
- 1 bowl of fruit with chia/pumpkin seeds 1 tbsp + 1 glass of lemon water/
- 1 glass of papaya smoothie with chia and flax seeds
Lunch (1 – 2 pm)
- 2 Phulkas/1 cup of steamed rice + sabji (beans/ cauliflower/ broccoli/ leafy veg/ mixed veg) + ¾ cup dal/chana/rajma/1 cup paneer + 1 cup curd
Post lunch (4 pm)
- Kadha/tea of cloves, black pepper, and dried ginger – 1 cup
Mid-evening snack (5 – 6 pm)
- Boiled sprouts/pulses or roasted makhana/chana – ½ cup
Before dinner options (8 pm)
- Dal paani – 1 cup/
- Rasam – 1 cup/
- Carrot/tomato/spinach/broccoli Soup – 1 cup
Dinner options (8 – 9 pm)
- 1 bowl of vegetable khichdi + 1 cup curd/
- 2 Mung dal cheela with paneer + garlic chutney/
- 3 pieces of Idli with vegetable sambar/
- 2 Rotis with palak or methi dal/ egg curry/paneer bhurji – 1 cup
- Low-fat milk with turmeric and black pepper, without sugar – 1 glass
Proper nutrition is crucial for health, particularly in times when the immune system might need to fight back. Limited access to fresh foods may compromise our efforts to continue eating a healthy and varied diet.
It can also potentially lead to increased consumption of highly processed foods, which are high in fats, sugars, and salt. Nonetheless, even with few and limited ingredients, one must try to eat healthy and support the body in the fighting of the virus.
Note: Please remember that the above-given tips and diet plan are not a cure or remedy for coronavirus, but a way to boost up your immune system to fight against the infection.
Stay indoors, stay safe and eat healthy!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are foods to avoid during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. Highly processed and packaged foods, refined sugars, high-fat foods, foods rich in saturated and trans fat, can not only lower immunity but also interfere with the body’s ability to fight the infection. Also, red meats should be avoided as they increase inflammation in the body.
Q. What are the best foods to eat during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, properly washed, along with protein-rich dals, pulses or lean meats, and whole grains are the best foods to be consumed during the pandemic. Along with these probiotic-rich curds, good fats from nuts, seeds & herbs, and spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic which have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties should also be included.
Q. How should I wash fruits and vegetables in the time of COVID-19?
A. The best way to wash fruits and vegetables is with running water. You can also soak vegetables and fruits in saltwater or vinegar water to remove contaminants. One can use thick peeled fruits and vegetables or remove the peel if the fresh produce is not organic.