How nutrition can play a role in fighting COVID-19

While there were many rumors spread about how to prevent or cure COVID-19 dating from the start of the pandemic, most of these proved to be completely ineffective while others (such as drinking bleach) were downright dangerous. Celebrity endorsers such as televangelist Jim Bakker and My Pillow guy Mike Lindell were caught hawking phony virus cures, but at the end of the day, we were left with hand-washing, social distancing, and vigilant cleaning and sanitation with products such as Pine-Sol as our best front-line anti-pandemic practices.

Now comes word from a USC biology professor, writing in The Conversation, that there is one more thing we can all start doing in order to keep healthy and virus-free. It seems as if an apple a day, along with lots of other fresh fruits and veggies, really can keep coronavirus away — at least if we use them to replace some of the other junk we've been stress-eating.

Better eating builds immunity

According to Professor Grayson Jaggers, "Along with social distancing measures and effective vaccines, a healthy immune system is our best defense against coronavirus infection." He says that in order to make sure our immune systems (along with the rest of our bodies) stay healthy, proper nutrition is crucial. Although healthy eating alone cannot replace medical treatment, it can not only make you less virus prone but, should you become, ill, Jaggers says, "good nutrition can work synergistically with medicine to improve vaccine effectiveness, reduce the prevalence of chronic disease and lower the burden on the health care system."

As we're already aware, not only the elderly but those with pre-existing health conditions are the ones at most risk of COVID-19 complications. These conditions include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, all of which are exacerbated by poor eating habits. Jaggers puts some of the blame on the typical Western diet with its "high proportion of red meat, saturated fat and... foods rich in sugar and salt." He recommends, instead, eating a variety of nutrient-rich plant-based foods, pointing out that "a diet rich in plant polyphenols can lower the risk of chronic conditions, like hypertension, insulin insensitivity, and cardiovascular disease."

The CDC recommends that you eat right

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also released their own guidelines for COVID-19 and nutrition. They bring up the fact that this pandemic has been stressful on all of us, and that proper nutrition is an essential part of the self-care we need to be practicing in order to cope with life as we know it now in the latter part of 2020.

The CDC reminds us, however, that there are no dietary supplements that can prevent or treat COVID-19, and in some cases, supplements, particularly taken in excess or in the wrong combinations, can even have harmful effects. While there are certain minerals (they mention vitamins C, D, and zinc, specifically) that may be able to boost our immune system's ability to fight off infection, they recommend that these nutrients be obtained through natural food sources: fruits and vegetables for vitamin C, milk and seafood for vitamin D, and lean meat, seafood, legumes, nuts, and seeds for zinc.

While healthy eating may not be the miracle cure we've been waiting for all year, it's one of the best (and only) defenses we have — short of encasing ourselves in plastic bubbles.