With the sense that the worst of the pandemic is finally behind us, it's understandable that we want to move on. But infections are still rife and about 200,000 Kiwis are living with long Covid, where symptoms linger for more than six months.
Diet plays an important part in supporting the immune system so paying attention to what you eat will help strengthen your immunity.
Here are three easy ways to help you on the road to recovery:
1. Know your nutrients
One of the main symptoms of the virus is a lack of taste and smell, which can wreak havoc on your appetite. The immune system needs a wide range of vitamins and minerals to function so if you are eating a more limited diet because you aren't feeling well, this is at odds with what your body needs to recover.
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It's tempting to pop a load of supplements, but eating wholefoods containing the requisite nutrients is a better strategy because they contain other compounds your body needs, such as fats, protein and fibre. Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E and folate and the minerals zinc, copper, selenium and iron are the ones to focus on, found in the following foods:
- Milk and cheese: Vitamin A and B12
- Fish and oily fish (such as salmon): Vitamins A, B6 and B12 and selenium
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli: Vitamins A and B6, folate and iron
- Nuts and seeds: Vitamin E, copper and iron
- Meat: Zinc, iron, selenium and vitamins B6 and B12
- Fruits: Vitamin A and C
2. Keep your energy levels up
Overwhelming fatigue is often cited as the most debilitating of long Covid symptoms, so include plenty of energy-giving starchy carbs at mealtimes, such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta. Wholegrain varieties are preferable because they contain fibre, resulting in a slower, sustained release of energy which helps when struggling with fatigue.
Keeping hydrated is also key because we lose lots of water when our bodies are fighting an infection. Even mild dehydration can impair energy levels so it's recommended to drink an extra 500ml of water a day if you have active Covid symptoms.
3. Pack in the protein
Recovery from long Covid can require periods in bed, or indeed hospital, which leads to a decline in muscle mass. Eating plenty of protein such as meat, eggs, fish and full-fat dairy will help maintain your muscles until you can be more active again. Don't forget to include plant-based sources of protein such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Try a protein-rich trail mix to snack on between meals. Combine almonds, pistachios, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate chips and store in an airtight container. A snack-sized portion is around 30g.