It happened: You test positive for COVID-19. Plenty of rest, plenty of tissues, and over-the-counter symptom relief products can help you on your road to recovery, as well as following the advice your doctor gives you. But there’s one more thing to add to your treatment plan: eating the right healthy foods. “Although there is no food or diet that absolutely ease your COVID symptoms or get you back on your feet faster, nutrition plays an important role, as it does with any virus or illness,” says Amanda Holtzer, MS, RD, dietitian at Culina Health. “You want to make sure you eat enough to fuel your body for the healing process and focus on foods that are anti-inflammatory and support your immune system.”
And once you recover from COVID, it’s still important to continue fueling your immunity to help keep you healthy and prepared to fight off other illnesses or future reinfections of COVID. “Between 70% and 80% of the body’s immune system is located in the gut, so eating a variety of food groups is key to keeping the gut microbiome diverse and capable of improving overall health,” explains Laura Iu, RD, owner of Laura IU Nutrition. “No food will suddenly strengthen your immune system overnight, but consuming nutrient-dense foods over time plays a role.” Focus on high-fiber foods like whole grains, add fruits and vegetables whenever possible, include probiotic-rich foods like kimchi or kefir, cook with fats like canola and olive oil, and keep your food rotation rich in protein and iron, says Iu.
Ready to soothe your symptoms and boost your immune system?
This is what you should eat when you have COVID:
Fill up on foods with vitamin C.
“Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that’s very important for cell and tissue growth and repair, so there’s a good reason it’s known as an immune-boosting nutrient,” says Holtzer. Vitamin C Rich Winners:
- Red peppers
- Oranges, grapefruits and other citrus
- Broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables
Lean towards aromatics.
Garlic, onion, chives, leek, shallot, chivesThey are all part of the allium family and boast antibacterial and antiviral properties, so they can boost your immunity while pleasing your taste buds. These are two big ones when you feel sick. “Try grating fresh garlic into bone broth or soup,” says Holtzer.
Focus on protein.
Cells break down when dealing with a disease like COVID, and protein is the number one macronutrient that can help repair them, says Holtzer. When you’re feeling grossed out, the usual proteins like meat, fish, and legumes like beans may not be too appetizing, but these selections are also high in protein and can be more comforting:
- Scrambled eggs
- Bone broth or bone broth-based soups (just one cup of bone broth has about 5 g of protein, says Holtzer)
- yogurt or kefir
- Shakes with protein powder
- toast with nut butter
Adopt herbs and spices.
Many of these flavor enhancers help fight inflammation and are high in antioxidants, Iu says, and can be especially helpful if you have a diminished or lost sense of taste. “Season intensely with bold flavors like garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne, cumin and cinnamon so that the flavors are transmitted”, adds Iu. Cayenne pepper, in particular, is good to use if you can handle the heat: It has a high concentration of capsaicin, says Iu, an anti-inflammatory substance that gives it a kick and can help reduce nasal congestion. Fresh or dried ginger, low-sodium curry mixes, nutmeg, cloves, and all fresh or dried herbs also fit the bill.
Try to hydrate food.
Hydration is very important to help your body function properly, both when you are sick and when you are healthy. In addition to the more obvious hydration solution, fluids, most fruits and vegetables are also high in H20, and many also contain minerals that function as electrolytes to help balance fluid levels in the body. But these are the highlights:
If you’ve lost your appetite or sense of smell or taste, “smoothies are a great way to optimize your nutrition and hydration,” Iu suggests. “You can use fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and it’s also a great opportunity to add things like yogurt, nut butters, or protein powders for an extra nutrient boost.”
Opt for whole grains.
Your body also needs carbohydrates to fuel the healing process, and whole grains are an ideal choice because they contain other nutritional needs like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and sometimes even a little protein. Smart Picks:
- Integral rice
- Whole-grain bread, pasta, or crackers
Get some omega-3s.
This type of fatty acid helps control inflammation, an important step in recovering from an illness like COVID and staying healthy when you recover. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- chia seeds
- ground flax seeds
- Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, trout, mackerel
Foods to help soothe COVID symptoms:
Aside from helping with recovery, sometimes you just want something to really help you. feel better. COVID symptoms vary by person and by variant, but here’s what some common symptoms can alleviate:
- Fever: Choose beverages low in added sugar, such as still or sparkling water, hot or iced tea, coconut water, and low-sugar sports drinks or rehydration drinks. “Having a little bit of sugar actually helps draw electrolytes like sodium and potassium into the body, which then helps promote water retention,” explains Iu. You can also make your own electrolyte drink with Iu’s easy recipe: 3 ½ cups of water + 1 cup of 100% juice + 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Cough or sore throat: These foods are nutrient-dense, tick several boxes for immune support, and are super comforting, too: smoothies, soups, curries and stews. “Mixing raw or Manuka honey with hot tea or water can be a helpful remedy for sore throats and coughs. Additionally, these types of honey are a good source of antioxidants and boast antibacterial and antifungal properties for extra infection-fighting power,” says Iu. Or try making a good-for-you frozen drink that feels good and tastes great, says Holtzer: Mix a protein shake with a frozen banana and some water or your favorite milk.
- Diarrhea: “You’ll want to increase your intake of soluble fiber, also known as the type of fiber that absorbs fluid in the digestive tract and helps slow it down,” says Holtzer. food like oatmeal, beans, barley and apples fall under this umbrella.
- Nausea or vomiting: Focus on small or snack-size portions, and opt for bland foods that are easily digested, says Holtzer, such as toast, crackers, rice and pretzels. Ginger can also help settle the stomach.
Foods to avoid if you have COVID-19:
In general, it’s a good idea to limit or avoid foods that are high in sugar or sodium, as well as alcohol. Also avoid highly processed foods that have minimal nutritional value, such as chips, desserts, and candy.
home cooked meals containing whole grains, protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables are ideal, as is staying properly hydrated, but “it’s important to keep in mind that we all have different levels of access to food, so it’s okay if you need to lean on takeout as well,” says Iu. “At the end of the day, it’s more important that you’re actually eating.” That’s because when you have COVID, your body is under greater stress and typically needs more calories than you’d normally consume, Iu explains, as it’s working harder to fight off the infection.
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