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Can Certain Foods Prevent Covid-19?

Is it true that nutrition plays a role in boosting a person's immune system?

Nashville, Ark. – With the rise in Covid-19 cases, many people are taking a second look at what steps they can do to prevent their chances of contracting the disease. Wearing masks, proper hand washing, and social distancing continue to be the main preventive steps all of us can do. But what about the foods we eat? Isn’t it true that nutrition plays a role in boosting a person’s immune system?

Nutrition does play a role in supporting a person’s immune system. Currently there is no strong evidence that healthy eating prevents or lowers the symptoms of Covid-19 directly. However, there is strong evidence of the correlation between a healthy diet in developing a stronger immune system does help to fight off disease.

            Covid-19 is a respiratory illness which is spread by a virus. A person can become infected through close contact with other people who have the virus. When a person coughs or sneezes water droplets happen, which can have the virus. It is now being suggested that even when a person talks water droplets may appear. Think about it, how many times have you been talking to someone and you feel moisture in the air? While we try not to “spit”, sometimes it just happens. That’s why wearing face masks are encouraged.

Certain foods do help boost our immune health. They include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, Carotenoids and Protein.

            You have probably heard to increase your Vitamin C intake when it is cold and flu season to help fight off infection. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that attacks harmful molecules that can damage the immune system. It’s like having an army inside you that fights to protect you.

Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes. Other great sources of Vitamin C include kiwi, red and green peppers, broccoli, and strawberries. While Vitamin C is a common supplement you can take, getting our nutrients from the foods we eat is better.

Another vitamin that helps fight harmful molecules is Vitamin E. Vitamin E is found in almonds, hazelnuts, and peanut butter.

Zinc plays an important role in building the various cells of our immune system. Research has shown that people with zinc deficiency are more prone to infection. Zinc rich foods include chickpeas, beans, and oysters.

Carotenoids have received lots of attention in the nutrient world over the past few years. Carotenoids are a pigment found in various plants that also acts as antioxidants like Vitamin C and E. When eating foods with carotenoids, they are transmitted into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a strong supporter of immune health. Dark yellow and orange and dark green, leafy vegetables are good indicators of carotenoids. Foods such as carrots, kale, mango, papaya, sweet potatoes and spinach are high in carotenoids.

The cells of our immune system rely on protein to function properly. It is important to maintain healthy levels of protein for our immune system and overall body to remain strong and functional. Foods such as chicken, fish, lean cuts of beef and pork, Greek yogurt and eggs contain protein.

A healthy meal plan is based on eating a variety of foods. Check out the website www.choosemyplate.gov to help you plan healthy meals for your family. Not only does a healthy lifestyle help boost your immune system, it also helps decrease obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions that can make a person more susceptible to Covid-19.

Information for this article was adapted from D-FEND project which is a multimedia program from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture designed to help people focus on health and nutrition during COVID-19. Check out the YouTube Videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1COt-uvHEf5XZhwLswYkXw.

For more information on a healthy lifestyle, contact the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or email me at jince@uaex.edu. I’ll be glad to send you a copy of “Let’s Eat Right for Health”. You might also ask to be added to our nutrition and wellness mailing list for upcoming programs.

Recipe of the Week

            Here is a great summertime recipe that is high in protein and vitamin C. Great for lunch or a cool evening meal on hot summer days.

Chicken and Fruit Salad

3 cups cooked chicken, chopped

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks in juice, well drained

1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, in 100% juice, drained

¾ cup chopped celery

1 cup halved seedless grapes

¼ cup pecans (optional) divided

¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon black pepper

8 cups chopped lettuce leaves or 8 large lettuce leaves

            In a large bowl, mix gently chicken, pineapple chunks, oranges, celery, grapes, and half of the pecans.

            In a separate small bowl, mix low-fat mayonnaise and black pepper. Gently stir mayonnaise mixture into chicken mixture. Cover and chill in refrigerator.

            To serve, scoop 2/3 cup of chicken mixture onto 1 cup of chopped lettuce leaves (or 1 large lettuce leaf).

            Sprinkle remaining pecans on top of chicken mixture.

Yield: 8 (2/3 cup) servings

Nutrition Information per Serving: 170 calories, 4g fat, 14g protein, 19g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 105 mg. sodium. Excellent source of vitamin C. Good source of vitamin A.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517
jince@uaex.edu

 

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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