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What is the role of nutrients to help fight covid-19?

- 7 min read
written by Shield Connect

Why staying healthy is important in today’s time? More than 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates quoted: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The nutritional status is generally influenced by both nutrient intake and occurrence of the disease, particularly in developing nations. People can become severely malnourished due to inadequate diet and infectious diseases.1 In … Continue reading “What is the role of nutrients to help fight covid-19?”

Why staying healthy is important in today’s time?
More than 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates quoted: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The nutritional status is generally influenced by both nutrient intake and occurrence of the disease, particularly in developing nations. People can become severely malnourished due to inadequate diet and infectious diseases.1

In urban India, dietary intake has been repeatedly shown to be inconsistent and imbalanced. Commercial and market forces, easy availability of energy dense and processed foods, and socioeconomic factors majorly influence the diet.2

As a consequence, diets are high in unhealthy carbohydrates, simple sugars, saturated fats, trans fats, and low in nutritious fibre, protein, fruits and vegetables. This has led to a rapid increase in lifestyle conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, which are the prime risk factors leading to high mortality in COVID-19.2

Currently, throughout the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is the leading challenge. Even after finding vaccines for COVID-19, there is a high possibility that other antimicrobial resistant infections will predominate the society. Thus, nutritional status is very important to maintain a strong immune system against the virus and other antimicrobials.1

How a balanced nutrition helps you to stay fit?
The immune system is strengthened with optimal nutrition and dietary nutrient intake. These nutrients act on the immune system through various genetic and cellular mechanisms. In addition, it also forms a part of the gut microbial composition, which subsequently shape the immune responses in the body.1

The act of confining to one’s home, during the lockdown, quarantine and social distancing, has significantly impacted one’s health. It has also led to change in eating patterns, sleeping habits, and physical activity. It had promoted sedentary behaviors that has affected mental and physical health and led to an increased risk of obesity. Apart from that, fear and anxiety has also caused changes in dietary habits leading to unhealthy dietary patterns and less desire to eat or with lessened enjoyment during eating.1

For a healthy maintenance of the immune function, an adequate intake of nutrients such as zinc, iron, and vitamins A, B12, B6, C, and E is essential. A balanced diet will guarantee a strong immune system that can help withstand any assault by the virus and other infection causing microorganisms.1

Vitamin C has been recognized to be one of the major constituents, which strengthens your immunity. In men, the daily recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin C is 90 mg/d, whereas for women it is 75 mg/d. In the current situation, it is necessary to be aware of the specific types of food that can improve our immune system in order to combat COVID-19.1

What are the key nutrient recommendations?
Several nutrients are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system, which is why maintaining a healthy balanced diet is the best way to support immune function. Important nutrients for effective immune function are iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D.3

Recommendations include2:

    • Foods rich in fibre: Fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g., lentils, beans), nuts and whole grains e.g., unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, brown rice or starchy tubers or roots such as potato, and foods from animal sources (e.g., fish, eggs, milk meat) – Daily: 2 cups of fruit, 2.5 cups of vegetables, 180 g of grains, and 160 g of non-vegetarian foods (fish, lean meats, and poultry)
    • Probiotics: Increase foods with probiotics (e.g., curds)
    • Healthy oils: Choose healthy oils such as olive, canola, mustard, soybean
    • Hydration: Increase hydration particularly when fever or gastrointestinal upset occurs
    • Protein: High-quality sources of protein include red meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, chicken, fish, quinoa, soybean – Daily: 1 g protein/kg body weight in adults; the amount should be individually adjusted with regard to nutritional status, physical activity level, disease status and tolerance
    • Zinc
    • Seeds: pumpkin (kaddu), Flaxseeds (Alsi), chia seeds
    • Other foods: yoghurt (dahi), kidney beans (rajmah), oats, nuts like almonds (badam), egg, lentils (dals like moong/masoor) etc.
    • Selenium: whole wheat flour, green gram dal (moong dal), eggs, chia seeds, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, sardines, cottage cheese (paneer), brown rice (long grain).
    • Vitamin C: Indian gooseberry (amla), citrus fruits, such as, limes (mausambi), oranges and lemons, guava, green chilies, tomatoes, green vegetables like broccoli etc.
    • Vitamin A: Spinach, carrot, red peppers, papaya, mangoes, broccoli, apricots (khubani) etc.
    • Vitamin D: Mainly derived through sunlight exposure for 15-20 min between 11 and 2 PM with good body part exposure, and also available as supplement.

Eating a variety of foods will help to maintain a healthy balanced diet. The immuno-protection and strengthening property of many of these nutrients is based on their antioxidant capacity (oxidation is a chemical reaction that can damage cells), which is lost if consumed in excess.3

How would it help in COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on the role of the immune system, with many experts and articles from all over the world advising people to buy supplements or eat healthy foods in order to improve their immune systems and keep it healthy.3

The truth is understated. As highlighted recently by the World Health Organization, a healthy lifestyle makes all body functions work better, which also includes immunity. Having a healthy diet by including lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, is the key component of a healthy lifestyle and plays a vital role in supporting a well-functioning and effective immune system to help protect against infection and other diseases.3

A certain amount of particular nutrient saturates into cells and prevents any kind of nutritional deficiency. Individuals consuming well-balanced diets appear to be safer with better immune systems and lower incidence of chronic diseases and infections.1

References: 1. Aman F, Masood S. How nutrition can help to fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Pak J Med Sci. 2020 May;36(COVID19-S4):S121-3.
2. Diabetes (India), National Diabetes Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation (NDOC), and Nutrition Expert Group, India. Balanced nutrition is needed in times of COVID19 epidemic in India: A call for action for all nutritionists and physicians. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2020 Nov-Dec;14(6):1747-50.
3. Links between coronavirus, nutrition and the immune system [Internet]. Available at: https://www.wcrf.org/int/blog/articles/2020/04/links-between-coronavirus-nutrition-and-immune-system. Accessed on Feb 4, 2021.

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