Covid: How Your Diet Can Help You Recover After Contracting Coronavirus


The recipe for the body to deal with any infection does not usually change: generate energy through food, stay hydrated and a pinch of protein that helps repair tissues and cells.

The covid-19, however, is a different virus from all we knew.

It’s new, so our immune systems weren’t ready to deal with it. Nor were there any medications to combat it.

Even so, nutrition experts say that diet is crucial to cope with the disease.

Eating is such a routine part of our daily lives that it is easy to overlook its importance, especially when a person recovers from COVID-19.

Given this, experts offer recommendations on different diets that could help a recovering covid patient manage symptoms.

How does food help recovery?

Before explaining the advice of various nutritionists, it is important to understand how the body fights disease. As they say, knowing the theory will facilitate the practice phase.

The immune system is a network of organs, cells, and chemicals that fight infection in many ways. White blood cells, antibodies and other mechanisms destroy harmful microorganisms, and also repair cells and tissues affected by any disease.

In the same way, the proteins and amino acids of which these cells are made are important.

During an infection, the body extracts proteins from the muscles that are broken down and transformed into amino acids, which the immune system uses to make new proteins, explained Philip Calder, professor of nutritional immunology at the University of Southampton.

For this reason, many people lose weight and feel their muscles weak when they are ill.

“During recovery, [la persona] you need to add the protein back, “says Professor Calder.” This provides the building blocks your body needs to perform its activities … especially for those who have been immobile in a hospital bed. “

In a disease scenario, the body also needs more energy because it works more than normal.

“The immune system needs a lot of energy when it is active and dealing with pathogens,” Calder added.

This is why eating carbohydrate-rich foods like oatmeal, bread, and pasta, as well as protein-rich, energy-rich foods like full-fat yogurt, eggs, and nuts will aid recovery, even if the person’s appetite is poor.

Vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids

Likewise, getting the right vitamins and minerals is essential during the recovery process.

These micronutrients are found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy. This is where the importance of eating a broad diet comes into play.

“They are the factory workers who carry out all the processes and they are really important,” Calder said. Certain vitamins and minerals play a key role in supporting the immune system and recovery, such as:

  • Vitamins: A, C, D, E, B6, B9 (folate) and B12
  • Minerals: zinc, copper, selenium and iron

The UK National Health Service (NHS) recommends that people take a vitamin D supplement (10 micrograms per day) in the winter months, as this nutrient is produced by contact with light solar. Meanwhile, vitamin B12 is only found in products of animal origin, so vegan people should take supplements of that substance.

Certain vitamins and minerals play a key role in supporting the immune system. GETTY IMAGES

In addition to vitamins, healthy fats, including those found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, and oily fish, are important in the process of producing energy.

So do Omega-3 fats, essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce enough and must come from the diet. They are especially beneficial for the immune system. Some sources of Omega-3 are sardines, salmon, and mackerel.

If the patient has no appetite during illness, making it difficult for him to obtain all his vitamins via food, he may consider taking a multivitamin supplement enriched with Omega-3.

No substance, vitamin, or mineral will miraculously speed recovery; each has a different role.

What to eat to recover from covid-19

The expert indicated that a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in plant foods, is ideal to recover from covid-19. And it contains all the nutrients that the body needs after receiving the “hammering” of the infection.

“This means that the ideal is a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds and legumes, as well as some oily fish and healthy oils,” said Calder.

Meat is a good source of protein, but some plants are great too. For example, quinoa, legumes (beans, lentils, and peas), tofu, and walnuts.

For a vegan or vegetarian to obtain the amino acids they need, it is best to combine more than one protein source.

This type of varied, high-fiber diet also provides a wide range of good gut bacteria and a healthy gut lining, both of which play an important role in regulating the immune system.

Legumes are a source of protein. GETTY IMAGES

The scientist added that if the person went through a time in which they ingested few foods, the ideal is to resume their diet little by little.

“Be careful,” he commented. “Softer foods are easier for the gut to handle. Restoring the gut will be reasonably quick, but it could take a few days as patients return to eating more.”

According to the NHS, if they did not lose weight during the illness, the person can try to include the following in their daily diet to optimize their recovery from COVID-19:

  • Protein: Three palm-sized servings of meat, fish, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts, chickpeas, and meat alternatives like Quorn or tofu. (More beans and legumes, less red and processed meats).
  • Fruits and vegetables: 5 servings of 80 g (about a handful), even fresh, frozen or canned, ideally in a range of colors.
  • Dairy / Dairy Alternatives: Three thumb-sized servings of milk, cheese, and yogurt or high-protein dairy alternatives that are fortified with calcium (more fortified soy milk and fewer coconut oil-based products)

Cope with fatigue

If the patient feels weak as a result of COVID-19, he should try to minimize weight loss, increase energy and regain muscle strength, said Kirsten Jackson, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.

“Many people get involved in trying to eat healthy, but if you feel so bad that you can’t cook and your energy is low, then it is important to consume calories in any form,” he explained.

Shakes that include some type of dairy are good for maintaining hydration and receiving energy. GETTY IMAGES

Milk drinks such as hot chocolate and shakes that include some type of dairy are good for maintaining hydration and receiving energy.

Meal replacement drinks and healthy prepared meals can also be a stopgap amid fatigue. However, Jackson urged caution when purchasing these liquids.

“Many shakes on the market are actually for weight loss, so they are either very low in calories, or they are protein shakes, which are just high in protein and not high in calories,” he said.

Eating little and often can be easier and more appealing than preparing three large meals a day. The British Dietetic Association suggested opting for three smaller nutritious meals, in addition to snacks and drinks.

Loss of smell and taste

About half of all COVID-19 patients lose their sense of smell (anosmia) and with it their ability to taste food. For most people it will return after two to three weeks, but for 10% of patients it may take months.

“This can have a significant impact on your appetite because you don’t have all those normal signals, the smells and tastes, to activate it,” says Sarah Oakley, CEO of Abscent, a charity that supports people who have lost their sense of self. smell.

The expert suggested trying foods with different sensory qualities. “Try foods with crisp and soft items, or think of different colors and temperatures,” Oakley said. “That way, you get a variety of sensations that are important when you’ve lost your sense of taste and smell.”

He also recommended “training” the smell to help it recover. This involves actively inhaling the same scents twice a day under intense concentration. This practice should be repeated for four months.

“Smell training is essentially physical therapy for the nose,” Oakley said. “The neurons have been damaged and smell therapy is a healing process.”

Distorted and unpleasant smells and tastes (parosmia) are also a common part of recovery from COVID-19.

Fish, like salmon, can be a source of protein. GETTY IMAGES

This can make eating very difficult, especially if parosmia makes some foods taste bad.

The foods that cause this reaction vary from person to person, but often include coffee, garlic, onions, bread, and roasted or fried meats. “This can get quite nerve-wracking and difficult,” Oakley said.

Although the condition is intense and the flavors unpleasant, the patient needs to get his calories in the way he can.

“Tasteless meal replacement shakes and cold foods like ice cream tend to be less of a trigger,” says Oakley. “In those early stages, it’s not so much about worrying about nutritional balance, it’s about keeping energy levels high.

Once things improve, the person can start consuming fruits or vegetables.

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