An Apple a Day Keeps COVID-19 Away

By Ng Hooi Lin (伍卉苓)
Abridged and translated by Chang Yu Ming (張佑民)
Rosalind Chang (張薰云)

An Apple a Day Keeps COVID-19 Away

By Ng Hooi Lin (伍卉苓)
Abridged and translated by
Chang Yu Ming (張佑民)
Rosalind Chang (張薰云)

As we practice social distancing to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, shouldn't we also keep our distance from the unhealthy foods that can strain our immune system?

A variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors can provide the many nutrients you need for a healthy body and mind.

A friend of mine posted on social media that when he went to a pharmacy to buy medicine for his mother, he noticed that all the dietary supplements, for instance, multivitamins and minerals, were almost all sold out. At the same time, I also noticed that some social media posts advertised their products like vitamin C, protein powder, beta-carotene, garlic oil and other health supplements by saying that they are effective in preventing COVID-19, and that we should get them while they were still in stock. Such posts can even receive up to hundreds of "likes".

As a nutritionist, I feel that it is in my duty to put in my two cents' worth.

Every Meal Counts
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, everyone feels anxious when they go out as they are in fear of contracting the disease. Once, while riding the bus, I coughed a few times and I immediately noticed that the other passengers were scrutinizing me behind their masks. Without a vaccine or a cure for the disease, people are doing everything they can to boost their immune system, hoping to be able to fight off the virus on their own.

However, let us take a step back from chugging those health supplements, calm down, and explore a different angle – what food can we put on our plates to give our bodies the essential nutrients that will defend us against the virus?

While we practice social distancing to avoid close contact with strangers and replace hugs and handshakes with other forms of greetings, shouldn't we also "distance" ourselves from the oily, unhealthy foods that burden our immune system, and in contrast, allow more "close contact" with healthy foods like fruits and vegetables?

Before the crisis, we often choose what we eat based on our likings or how delicious the food is. Perhaps now is a good opportunity to change that thinking pattern and ask, "What can I eat that is good for my body?" By resting well and eating right, we can optimize our immune system so that it is in tip-top condition.

More Proteins
Proteins are one of the main building blocks of human cells, and the immune system also requires sufficient proteins to function properly. Meats that are processed or deep fried are still not advisable, though.

Vegetarians can opt for beans, nuts, or soy-based foods like tofu, etc., over mock meat for proteins. Every day, when you pick up these proteins, you will also acquire the much-needed zinc for your immune system as well.

A Variety of Fruits and Vegetables
A mix of fruits and vegetables of different colors can greatly help the immune system. Dark green leafy vegetables like Chinese broccoli (Gai lan), choy sum or spinach, etc., are good choices. Orange or yellow colored fruits and vegetables like pumpkin, bell pepper, carrot, sweet potato, papaya and orange, etc., are rich in beta-carotene. The darker the color, the more carotene it contains. Our body then converts carotene into vitamin A, which helps keep our eyes, mouth, nose and the mucous membrane lining our respiratory tract healthy as they are at the frontlines of immunity.

Fruits contain vitamin C, which boosts our immune system, so it is a good habit to have two to three servings of fresh fruits every day, with each serving approximately the size of your fist.

Eating healthily can greatly help our immune system fend off any infectious viruses.

Many researches prove that mushrooms are good for our immune system so it is a good idea to add them into your daily diet. However, refrain from deep-frying them with too much oil. A quick stir-fry with other vegetables or throwing them into your soup is a healthier cooking method. Personally, I simply stir-fry some mushrooms with just a bit of oil, flavor them with some salt and sandwich them with wholemeal bread to make a quick breakfast. Delicious and easy.

True or False?
Recently, I received many forwarded messages suggesting that curry may be the reason why hundreds of Indians from Wuhan, China were tested negative for the virus, and these messages encouraged people to eat more curry to prevent getting infected by the virus.

It is true that curcumin in curry has some anti-oxidation properties, but currently there is no research confirming that curry can prevent infection from COVID-19. There is no need for you to start eating curry every day solely for the possibility of preventing the disease. Regular handwashing is still the most effective way to keep the virus at bay.

There are also rumors that eating raw garlic or onions can protect us against COVID-19. World Health Organization (WHO) has debunked such myths, clarifying that though garlic is a healthy food and contains some antimicrobial properties, there is no scientific evidence proving that eating garlic can protect people from the novel coronavirus.

Keep Calm
When we are swarmed with loads of unverified information, our brain gets overwhelmed and we easily give in to fear, inducing panic buying or the needless hoarding of goods. Hence, it is all the more important that we keep calm and decipher the truth from the false.

Right now, I choose to trust the experts. I wash my hands regularly and avoid touching my face, especially my nose or mouth. I also maintain good personal hygiene and eat and sleep well.

I have bought some picture books about microorganisms to read with my daughter and also the book Spillover Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic for myself. I am going to stay away from crowded places, spend the time reading at home and just remain calm while waiting for this whole storm to blow over.

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