Lock-down is partially over! You probably face fears daily especially if you are in Lagos where covid-19 cases is almost the highest in Nigeria. You may have a fear spike anytime you enter the bus to go to work or just by walking down the street. Also, if you are already diagnosed with Covid-19, this article will be of great help to you! While it is well established that healthy eating cannot prevent being infected, the immune responses to the infection especially during the incubation and non-severe stage can be greatly influenced by healthy eating. Not taking enough essential nutrients has been shown to increase the severity of covid-19 infection whereas adequate nutrition helps to reduce the time of infection and shorten hospital stay! Good news yeah? Let’s take a good look at essential nutrients that you need to incorporate into your diet especially during this period:
Yes, the well known Protein! Most people easily get enough of carbohydrate but pay lesser attention to protein. Your immune cells need some protein components (amino acids) as energy source and for cell differentiation during an immune response. Inadequate protein intake is closely linked with suppressed immune functions. Most adults needs between 50g-70g of Protein per day. Food sources are lean meats, fish, beans, milk and nuts.
Vitamin A is fat soluble vitamin also known as “anti‐infective” vitamin. It helps to create certain cells, including B- and T-cells, which play central roles in immune responses. Adequate intake of vitamin A rich food sources has been linked to reduced severity of many infectious diseases and has also been suggested to be effective in improving immune response to covid-19. Foods rich in Vitamin A include cod liver oil, eggs, mackerel, liver, carrot, and sweet potatoes.
B vitamins are water‐soluble vitamins that plays vital roles in how energy and protein are used in the body and therefore important in enhancing the immune system. Low intake results in weak immunit. Sources include lean meat, fish, beef, avocados, leafy greens, nuts, beans, whole grains, milk, enriched and fortified cereals
Vitamin C does not only play an important role in wound healing and protecting body cells from oxidative damage but also helpful in increasing resistance to infection! A few controlled trials showed that people taking vitamin C supplements are less susceptible to pneumonia infections suggesting that it is important in preventing especially the severe stage of covid-19 infection. Although the recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men, doses of about 200 mg/day has been shown to reduce severity and duration of upper and lower respiratory tract infections. Foods very rich in vitamin C are lemon, oranges, bell and chilli pepper, pawpaw, strawberries,and pineapple
Vitamin D helps to and decrease inflammation and promote immune response. Some studies show that daily or weekly vitamin D supplementation protects against acute respiratory infection (ARI) and low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, including influenza and allergic asthma. Most people don’t usually get adequate intake of Vitamin D and this may reduce immune response to infections. Daily recommended intake is 2000 IU/day (50 µg/day)..Foods rich in Vitamin D includes egg yolk, mushrooms, salmon, sardine and cod liver oil, fortified cereals and milk.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant found in higher concentration in immune cells compared to other cells in blood and are useful in protecting cells from damage especially in older people. Vitamin E deficiency has been associated with lower immune functions. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for ages 14 and up is 15 milligrams (mg). Although deficiency is rare, vitamin E supplementation above current dietary recommendations has been shown to enhance the function of the immune system and reduce risk of infection, particularly in older individuals. However, Dosages shouldn’t exceed 1,000 international units (IUs) per day if you’re using synthetic supplements so as to avoid haemorrhagic stroke. Foods that are rice in Vitamin E are almonds, spinach, avocados, squash, kiwifruit, trout, shrimp, olive oil, wheat germ oil, and broccoli.
Iron deficiency has been reported as a risk factor for the development of recurrent acute respiratory tract infections. Iron can be found in both meats and vegetables. Animal sources (heme iron) comes from meat sources of iron, like offal, red meat and fish, these are easily absorbed than non-haeme iron, which is found in plant-based sources. If you are a vegan, eating food rich in vitamin C increases iron absorption.
Zinc and Copper
Often forgotten when thinking about nutrients are zinc and copper, these helps to create new immune cells, support communications between cells, as well as, protect and fuel immune cells. Taking zinc supplement is typically safe for healthy adults, as long as the daily dose is under the set upper limit of 40 mg of elemental zinc. Excess intake of zinc can interfere with the use of copper and therefore should be taken in moderation. Food sources of both nutrients include It is found in a wide range of sources from meat, eggs, beans, dark chocolates, shell fish, nuts and milk.
This nutrient is vital for producing new immune cells and can help to strengthen response to infection. It is also found in nuts and seeds, particularly Brazil nuts, cashews and sunflower seeds, as well as eggs, offal poultry, fish and shellfish.
Some good fats (omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) )have been shown to reduce inflammation and help in the recovery from infections and support immune cells. Daily recommended intake is 250 mg/day.These are found in olive oil, fatty fish, soybeans, chia seed and some nuts.
Other Nutritional Components
A review of 18 randomized control trials found that nutraceuticals such as green tea, ginger, garlic extract, cranberry, elderberry, and certain probiotics enhanced immune responses after treatment. It is very important to avoid buying fast arising products and pills with claims of nutraceuticals that are not verified. Buy only fresh nutritional foods and only take small doses of herbs (not more than 2-4g per day).
It is very important to choose all foods in all food groups especially protein sources, fruits and vegetables. Shop for nutrient quality and not just food quantity so as to reduce the impact of the novel covid-19!