COVID-19: A Key Reason to Start (or Keep) Eating HealthySep 30, 2021 12:48PM ● By Shae Marcus
by Jaycee Miller
Studies suggest healthy foods, vitamins and supplements may help lower, but not eliminate the risk for, diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and COVID-19.
Christos S. Mantzoros, M.D., DSc, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says the Mediterranean diet—which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish containing omega-3 fatty acids and extra-virgin olive oil—contains minerals, antioxidants and other healthy substances that makes the link between eating such foods and lowering the risk for some diseases plausible.
“The Mediterranean diet is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties,” he says.
The substances in nutrient-dense foods like those in the Mediterranean diet and some other eating plans also strengthen the body’s immune system. This helps, but does not eliminate the body’s ability to fight off diseases, adds Kimberly Baker, MS, Ph.D., the food systems and safety program team director at Clemson University.
According to U.S. News & World Report’s website, other eating plans with health benefits include the Mayo Clinic diet (which puts a strong, but not complete emphasis on fruits, veggies and whole grains and has been shown to lead to weight loss) and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet (which prioritizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and has been shown to lower blood pressure).
No time is the right time for “saying I want to be on this type of a diet that eliminates certain food groups,” Baker says.
Healthy foods may also play an important part in overcoming some diseases. Researchers recently reviewed data from 170 countries, including the U.S., and reported that eggs, seafood, fruits, meat, milk, starchy roots, stimulants, nuts, vegetable oil and vegetables “had a positive effect” on many adults’ recovery from COVID-19.
Recent studies have also suggested, but not proven, that vitamin D may play a supporting role in some COVID-19 outcomes. Researchers that looked at 27 studies on this topic found adults with insufficient vitamin D and COVID-19 were more likely to be hospitalized or succumb to the disease.
Baker says people should try and get nutrients like vitamins A, C and D and substances like iron, calcium and beta-carotene from food first. “If for whatever reason you cannot, consult a physician or a dietician to see if a supplement may be necessary,” she continues.
Experts say eating healthy does not mean cupcakes, cookies and salt are off limits forever. The key is to limit consumption of such items.
For example, Cleveland Clinic’s website (My.ClevelandClinic.org) advises Mediterranean diet followers to eat fewer than three sweet treats weekly, compared with three servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Similarly, the National Institute of Health’s website (nih.gov) says DASH diet followers do not need to eliminate all salt; instead, limit consumption to 2,300 milligrams (about a half of a teaspoon) a day.
Jaycee Miller is a freelance writer and researcher living in New Jersey.