This post was written by Our Site Nutrition Editor, Katie Morford, a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University.
When the intensity around the Coronavirus cranked up last week, I overheard a woman say she planned to drown her fears in wine and Ben & Jerry’s. I get it. Dulling your anxiety with alcohol and comfort food is understandable.
A better move, though, is to support your immune system to weather what’s to come. Some of the best strategies include getting plenty of sleep, managing stress (easier said than done), drinking lots of water, and heavying up on healthy foods.
Let’s be clear, diet can’t keep you from contracting COVID-19. That said, being poorly nourished diminishes your body’s ability to ward off infection, so it’s wise to aim for a wide variety of wholesome foods to provide a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. I polled some of my registered dietitian colleagues to help identify foods that can help support a healthy immune system. Here are the highlights:
- Fermented and fiber-rich foods to feed the gut
- A rainbow of fruits and vegetables to deliver vitamins C, A, and other key nutrients
- Sources of the mineral zinc
- Plant and animal sources of protein
- Foods that deliver vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids
- Garlic, onions, and mushrooms
It’s with that list in mind that I handpicked 10 tasty recipes that are just what the doctor (or dietitian) ordered:
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A bowl of this hearty chili provides the kind of comfort that’s called for right now. This recipe also happens to be full of fiber as well as onions and garlic, which can collectively help keep gut bacteria thriving. As an added perk it’s a great way to use up the canned beans and tomatoes you’ve recently stocked up on.
These colorful bowls are a powerhouse of good nutrition. Black rice delivers antioxidants. Tofu is a good plant-based source of zinc, which has anti-viral properties and helps the immune system function properly. As for kale and cauliflower? They’re basically a vegetable dream team.
If you’ve been stocking up on pasta, here’s a great way to prepare it. Nutritionally speaking, this pesto is about as good as it gets: high in vitamin A, thanks to all that kale, a source of zinc, due to the cashews, and made with fresh garlic, which is a natural antimicrobial.
The yogurt sauce in this recipe not only makes these savory skewers delicious, it adds “good” bacteria to your plate. Chicken is rich in both protein and zinc and if you swap in whole-grain pita, you’ll get more fiber.
Research shows homemade chicken soup actually does heal. Plus, shiitake mushrooms have long been prized for their immunity boosting properties.
This curry is basically a nutrient-rich cocktail in a slow cooker. Sweet potatoes are sky-high in vitamin A, which helps regulate the immune system. As for those peppers? They’re a tasty way to boost vitamin C, which can be protective against infection.
This simple sheet pan dinner is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, not to mention vitamin E, which may improve immune function. It’s also finished with a swipe of probiotic-rich miso, a flavor-packed fermented food.
Steak is a good source of protein, zinc, and iron, and flank is one of the leaner cuts. The asparagus is another reason to add this to your dinner plate, since it’s an excellent prebiotic.
Water is the best way to hydrate in my book. That said, it’s nice to have options, such as this antioxidant- and fiber-rich smoothie. Plus, if stress is upsetting your stomach, a smoothie may go down a little easier. If you need more great smoothie recipes check out our 7 Smoothie Recipe Round Up
If you’re looking for a sweet treat, these are a pretty healthy bet, particularly since peanut butter is a good source of vitamin E. With so many schools shut down at the moment, these are fun to make with your kids.