London Covid: The foods that could help you battle Omicron

A record number of Londoners tested positive for Covid-19 last week, as the Omicron variant continues to rip though the capital leading up to the New Year.

As January kicks off, many people will be vowing to eat healthier and treat their bodies better with new diets and traditions such as ‘Veganuary’ and ‘Dry January’.

What might come as a surprise, though, is that research suggests that people who eat a healthy diet rich in plant-based foods could be less likely to catch coronavirus – and can help in your recovery after catching it.

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Scientists from the ZOE Covid Study have found that people who eat a diet rich in plant-based foods, were 10 per cent less likely to catch coronavirus.

They were also 40 per cent less likely to suffer from severe symptoms which lead to hospitalisation, according to the study.

Not many have so far looked at the link between diet and Covid-19, but what is clear is that there is not one type of food that can stop you from catching the virus indefinitely.

Scientists at King’s College London and teamed up with Harvard Medical School and ZOE to analyse the diets of 600,000 Brits and Americans.

They discovered that a healthy diet “was associated with lower risk of Covid-19 and severe Covid-19” even after accounting for other healthy behaviours such as exercise, social circumstances and virus transmission measures.

The NHS recommends that eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health and has said that those who are ‘severely obese’ with a BMI of 40 or above are at higher risk of severe effects from Covid.

When ill, experts say eating well helps you avoid losing weight, helps your body rebuild damaged tissues, fight infection and cope with the side-effects of treatment.

Below are the best foods to include as part of a healthy and balanced diet as outlined by ZOE.

Oily fish

Oily fish is great as part of a balanced diet

High in omega-3 fats, oily fish is one of the keys to great gut health.

Farmed trout, sardines, anchovies, and herring are among the healthiest fish to eat, and are rich in nutrients including iodine, iron, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin D, and zinc.

Fish can be steamed, stewed and roasted for best results.

Fruit

Eating your five-a-day is essential to maintaining a health and balance diet.

Rich in fibre and multiple vitamins, there’s so many different fruits to choose from, depending on the time of year.

If you prefer buying canned and frozen fruit, try to opt for brands which are low in added sugar and salt.

Nuts and seeds

A generic photo of nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a healthy alternative snack

Nuts and seeds are full of antioxidants, fibre, minerals, and vitamins – and are a healthy alternative to things like crisps and sweets – which are tempting to snack on in between meals.

Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts and peanuts often come in small packets and are easy to eat on the go, or while you’re commuting on a Tube, train or bus.

Nutritionists recommend trying them chopped at breakfast or in a salad at lunch.

Vegetables

Vegetables help keep your immune system in check.

Food experts say you should aim for a variety throughout the week, which can include vegetables of the fresh and frozen variety.

If you’re not a huge fan of eating solid vegetables, get creative. You can make hundreds of different combinations of soups with just a few different vegetables.

At this time of year, try a seasonal winter vegetable soup, including red lentils, leeks, tomato, carrots and celery.

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Legumes

It might not be a phrase you are aware of, but legumes — including chickpeas, beans, lentils, and peas — are a good source of protein and fibre.

These types of foods can lower a person’s risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes – as well as potentially reduce the risk of catching severe symptoms of Covid-19.

Many vegetarians swap out the meat in dishes such as Bolognese for things like lentils and chickpeas.

Whole grains

As well as wholemeal pasta and brown rice, there are plenty of other whole grain options:

  • Buckwheat

  • Bulgur wheat

  • Corn

  • Millet

  • Quinoa

  • Rye

  • Oats

  • Wild rice

Fermented foods

Fermented foods are great for your gut, and help battle infections.

These include sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kimchi.

Foods to avoid

Scientists recommend that those wishing to improve their overall diet cut down on these types of foods to support your immune system.

  • Ultra-processed foods
  • Store-bought bread,
  • Sweetened breakfast cereals,
  • Chocolate
  • Microwave meals.
  • White rice
  • White pasta
  • All-purpose flour
  • Sweetened drinks

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Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, oily fish, nuts and seeds, legumes, and fermented foods are all healthy options to support your immune system and your overall health.

ZOE’s research shows that eating these foods is important for your gut microbiome, which, in turn, contributes to your immune system and helps you fight off infections, including Covid-19.

For drinking, water is by far the healthiest option. The World Health Organisation recommends drinking eight cups of water a day as part of a healthy diet during the pandemic.

The NHS recommends that if you are self-isolating and have symptoms, it is important you maintain a regular and good intake of food and fluid, even if your appetite has been reduced.

If you have specific nutrition needs, it is important that you continue to follow the dietary recommendations made by you dietitian or other healthcare professional.

This may involve asking friends or family members to get you specific foods so you can continue to follow an appropriate diet.

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