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Could Eating Better Boost Immunity?

Photo courtesy of Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock


Good nutrition makes for a healthier body - even school children know that but just how much could food and nutrition boost your immunity and help fend off the coronavirus? 


The University of Nevada, Reno has been conducting research on how nutrition affects various diseases and medical conditions. 

Jamie Benedict is chair of the university’s nutrition department.  

She told KNPR's State of Nevada that - yes- good food can help protect you against diseases but - no - there is no evidence of a specific type of food that will reduce the risk of getting the coronavirus.

“Nutrients are required in adequate amounts to support all body functions, including those that support our immune system and a strong immune system is going to help us protect against any bacterial and viral infections such as COVID-19,” she said, “But currently, there is no evidence that any particular food or nutrient can reduce the risk of infection due to the coronavirus.”   

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have sent several warnings about unscrupulous companies claiming to have diets or supplements that prevent or cure the coronavirus when there is no evidence that they do anything but waste people's money.

Benedict said when it comes to diet the best advice is to follow the FDA's My Plate recommendations, which is based on the five food groups.

“By doing so, it is much more likely that your body will have the nutrients needed to support a strong immune system and having a strong immune system is going to help you reduce the risk of COVID-19,” she said.

She did warn against using too many supplements because they may have unintended consequences. For example, zinc is important for the immune system but taking more of it doesn't mean you'll have a stronger immune system. 

In fact, because of how it works with iron in the digestive system, extra zinc can hurt iron absorption. 

Besides using food to protect yourself, people are concerned about getting the virus from food. 

Benedict said there is a low-level concern of getting the virus from food or food packaging because of how long the virus stays on surfaces.

She also said there is no need to stockpile food but she said it is a good idea to have about two weeks of food on hand in case someone in your household becomes sick with coronavirus.

Benedict recommended having a variety of shelf-stable pantry foods, like pasta, rice and canned vegetables; frozen foods, like chicken, broccoli and Brussel sprouts; and finally, fresh foods that your family will actually eat before they spoil. 

Jamie Benedict, chair Department of Nutrition, UNR

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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)