First, it was hand sanitizer, disinfectant and toilet paper. Then pasta, rice and canned goods. Now you may be hearing about the three-fold increase in vitamin sales or celebrities raving about revolutionary immune-boosting diets. As the number of COVID-19 cases in Australia continues to rise, so too does our obsession with diet and nutrition in fighting infection.
But of these claims what is really true? Is it really possible that a single food or nutrient prevents or cures COVID-19? With so much hype comes even more misinformation. In this post, we will address common nutrition myths surrounding COVID-19.
MYTH – Eating Garlic Prevents COVID-19
Garlic is a healthy food which may have some microbial properties. However, no evidence exists to suggest that eating garlic is protective against COVID-19. There is no harm in regularly including small amounts of garlic in your diet in addition to a variety of other vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and protein-rich foods.
MYTH – Vitamin C Cures COVID-19
Vitamin C helps us maintain healthy cells, skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage and assists in wound healing. Some studies have found vitamin C to lessen the severity of colds and flu, however, this is largely debated. Currently, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that vitamin C can help to cure or prevent COVID-19. Researchers in Wuhan are conducting a study to determine if vitamin C can help improve the severity and duration of COVID-19, but results are still to come.
Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, strawberries, capsicums and broccoli. If you are including fruits and vegetables as part of a regular balanced diet it is likely that you will be getting all the vitamin C you need.
MYTH – Supplements and Multivitamins Protect Against COVID-19
Supplements and multivitamins are generally only required if you have a nutrient deficiency or increased nutrient requirements such as during pregnancy. If you are able to consume adequate nutrients in your diet, taking a supplement or multivitamin will not prevent you from contracting COVID-19.
MYTH – A Ketogenic Diet Will Protect You Against COVID-19
The Ketogenic Diet is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet which puts the body in a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’ encouraging the body to burn fat for energy. There is no evidence to suggest that the Ketogenic Diet or ‘ketosis’ can prevent the body from developing infections such as COVID-19. The Ketogenic Diet is very restrictive and may be difficult to follow during the pandemic as we have reduced access to groceries and fresh foods.
Carbohydrates are important in our body for energy and brain function. Include whole-grain products (bread, cereal, oats), starchy vegetables (sweet potato, corn, peas), legumes, fruit and dairy products regularly in your diet. Carbohydrates are also found in processed foods such as chips, cakes, sweets, ice-cream and soft drink. Whilst we can still enjoy these foods in moderation, it is important to remember that excessive intake can lead to weight gain.
MYTH – Drinking Warm Water Kills COVID-19
The temperature of the liquids we consume does not affect our likelihood of contracting COVID-19. Consuming warm or hot drinks will not kill the virus. Similarly, drinking cold beverages and eating ice-cream does not increase your risk of infection.
It is, however, important to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Water makes up the majority of our bodily fluids and is used by the body in many important functions such as temperature regulation. Make sure you are consistently drinking water throughout the day and remember your body needs more water when you are physically active or have a fever.
Unfortunately, not one food, nutrient or supplement will guarantee us protection against COVID-19. Eating a balanced healthy diet consisting of a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and protein-rich foods in addition to regular exercise and sleep can help support our immune system and fight infection. As there is no magic pill, it is important to continue taking preventative actions against COVID-19 including hand-washing, good hygiene and social distancing.