COVID19 Nutrition and Immunity

With our normal lives uprooted with the stay at home order during this pandemic, it may be easy for people to put their nutrition and wellness goals on the backburner. However, in times like this, whether you are surrounded by your housemates or working from home, it is important to keep some health goals front and center. Two easy concepts to be conscious of are food safety and keeping your immune system in its best form. Here are some easy tips to incorporate into your stay-at-home schedule.

Food Safety Steps

There are a lot of questions about if COVID-19 is transferable through food and food packages. Foodborne exposure is not a form of transmission through this virus, as it is a respiratory virus. As always: stay six feet apart, wash your hands frequently, and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Following food- safety guidelines will help keep you healthy, just like any other safety precaution.

 ...for Delivery or Take Out:

  1. When delivering food to your home: pay online and make a note to the delivery driver to place it on your porch for a contactless approach.
  2. Bring food inside, place bag on the floor and wash your hands for 20 seconds.
  3. Transfer food from to-go containers to your own plates.
  4. Throw away to-go containers from the restaurant.
  5. Wipe down your countertops to prevent contamination.
  6. Wash your hands again for 20 seconds.
  7. Grab your own silverware and enjoy it! 

...for Grocery Shopping:

  1. CDC now recommends wearing a mask, but it is not required. This is to slow the spread of virus and to prevent people who unknowingly have the virus from spreading it to others
  2. If you wear gloves, remember they are single-use gloves. Change them after each new activity you do. This includes touching food at the grocery store, putting the bags in your car, and getting gas. 
  3. Bring groceries inside, place bags on the floor and wash your hands for 20 seconds.
  4. Transfer your produce to your own containers if possible, wipe down others, and wash produce.
  5. Throw away containers and bags.
  6. Refrigerate foods promptly.
  7. Wipe down your countertops to prevent contamination.
  8. Wash your hands again for 20 seconds.
  9. Prepare your food as normal.

When thinking about ordering food in, grocery shopping, and creating a shopping list, buying or ordering nutritious foods can help with thinking of ways to help keep your immune system healthy.  

Immunity and Food

Did you know the quality and quantity of food you eat could have a positive effect on your immune system? Or that sleep and exercise can have effects as well? While our environment is currently on lockdown, now is a good time to start building healthy habits and exploring immune-boosting foods to keep in your diet all year round. While these foods and habits will not cure coronavirus or the flu, they are important in supporting a healthy immune system. 

What is the immune system? 

The immune system is complex. It protects your body against germs from the outside or cell changes on the inside that cause illness. Imagine the immune system as an army. When the enemy such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi (antigens) tries to invade, the troops of the immune system (antibodies) recognize the enemy who is trying to do harm. The immune system works to fight off the enemy before harmful changes to the cells can be done- which can potentially cause disease. 

Having a healthy immune system can be beneficial for many reasons! While science has not proven any solid, direct links between lifestyle and immune functions, it is known that living a healthy lifestyle can give your body the extra protection it needs in fighting off disease. 

Healthy Habits to Follow Year-Round 

  • Eat 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables daily. 
  • Proper hygiene.
  • Regular disinfecting and sanitizing.
  • Sleep 7-9 hours every night. 
  • Find enjoyable ways to manage stress! 
    • Yoga, meditation, journaling 
  • Exercise regularly. 
  • Enjoy the sun! (See Vitamin D below) 

Foods for Improving Immune Function

Eating balanced meals year-round is a good way to support a healthy immune system. By eating 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables every day, a variety of the following nutrients that help with immune support will be eaten! 

  • Beta-Carotene 
    • Sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and mangoes 
  • Vitamin D
    • Eggs, fatty fish (i.e. mackerel, salmon, anchovy), fortified milk and juices 
    • 15-20 minutes of safe sun exposure can also provide Vitamin D! 
  • Vitamin C 
    • Citrus fruit, berries, melons, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli
  • Zinc 
    • Mostly in seafood and beef
    • Plant sources: wheat germ, beans, nuts, and tofu 
  • Probiotics 
    • Cultured dairy or fermented foods like kimchi or kefir
  • Protein 
    • Milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, beans, and lentils 

What would your ideal meal look like using some of the foods listed above? 

Written by: Heather Felt and Danielle Spelfogel