Food for immunity: Nutrition expert Sheryl Salis tells us how to fight COVID-19 by eating right

Nutrition expert Sheryl Salis tells us how to fight COVID-19 by eating right
Sheryl Salis
Sheryl Salis

Renowned dietician and certified diabetes educator Sheryl Salis, who is also the founder of Nurture Health Solutions, tells us about some simple and easy lifestyle and diet changes that can go a long way in fighting and preventing Covid-19 infections.

Here you go:    

Eat your rainbow

Coloured fruits and vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants that help to boost immunity. Colour your plate by including fresh, seasonal, local fruits and vegetables like pumpkin, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, papaya.

Power up with Protein

It is necessary to consume good quality protein adequately in your diet every day, preferably at every meal for the immune system to function optimally and to help you overcome post-COVID weakness.

Protein-rich foods are eggs, curd, buttermilk, paneer, sprouts, dal, soybean, soy chunks, soy granules, lean meat, fish, chicken.

<em>Protein rich foods</em>
Protein rich foods

The recipes of traditional Indian foods like dosa, idli, khichdi, curd rice, sattu paratha, dal dokli, rajma chawal provide good quality protein.

Focus on building a strong gut

Follow a healthy lifestyle and include pre-biotics like sweet potato, garlic, mushroom, onions, and green banana flour and probiotics like yoghurt, fermented foods and panta bhaat, kefir, kombucha, kimchi to improve gut health and boost the immune system.

Step up on immune-boosting foods rich in micronutrients by including citrus fruits, amla (Indian gooseberry), lentils, beans, sprouts, nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts, seeds like sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, onion seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains, millets like finger millet and sorghum, green leafy vegetables and moringa

<em>Immunity boosters</em>
Immunity boosters

Ensure you get your dose of Vitamin D which helps to maintain good health and boost immunity. You can go up to the terrace or to your balcony between 11 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. without sunscreen and get your dose of Vit D. If your levels of Vit D are low, consult a doctor and he/she may suggest a Vit D supplement.

Food Sources of Vit D are egg yolk, cod liver oil, mushrooms, sardines, fatty fish.

Include omega 3 rich foods which are anti-inflammatory like walnuts, chia seeds, fatty fish, flax seeds and soybean.

Include these anti-viral foods

Garlic (2-3 freshly chopped cloves), fennel seeds (2-3 teaspoons), ginger (1-2 inch), cloves (3 -4 no.), cumin seeds (2-3 teaspoons), tulsi, basil leaves or thyme (4-5 leaves), turmeric (4 pinches), virgin coconut oil (10 ml) , have anti-viral properties which help prepare our bodies to fight viral infections and flu.

Black pepper with turmeric is an exceptionally good combination as piperine in black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin from turmeric. Turmeric milk (haldi milk) is an age-old remedy for cough, cold, etc.

We can boost our immune systems by adding the above-mentioned foods easily available in our kitchen to build a strong immune system without letting us compromise on our taste buds.

A word of caution here is that excessive use of spice decoction (kadha) or spices may cause internal bleeding, acidity, mouth and stomach ulcers, rashes, acne and other health issues. Consume in moderation.


Nutrition support during the COVID infection

Fatigue, shortness of breath, dryness of mouth, lack of taste and smell results in decreased food intake. Eat small, frequent, energy and nutrient-dense meals to avoid breathlessness. Eat slowly, choose foods that are soft, moist and easy to swallow.

Use different flavours, spices, herbs for taste and smell. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking boiled water throughout the day.  Follow the dietary guidelines to avoid fatigue and for faster recovery.



Soft and semi-solid foods like thin dal khichdi, oats porridge, daliya /rawa porridge, Moong dal dosa/oats dosa/ besan chilla, rice kanji. sambhar rice, rasam rice, curd rice, panta bhaat

Refined foods like refined flour, bread, biscuits, cakes, cookies, sugar

Boiled egg, scrambled egg, paneer, tofu, fish, chicken, Unsalted nuts, seeds  & dry fruits like Walnut, Almonds, Pistachios, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Sesame Seeds, Roasted and powdered Flax seeds, Date, Apricot.

Any diet which deletes food groups


Fresh seasonal fruits, Stewed fruit

Fruit juices (fresh or packaged)

Mix veg soup, tomato soup, dal soup or chicken clear soup, egg drop soup. (Add fresh herbs and spices)


Herbal teas with lemongrass, cardamom, ginger, lemon and moringa

Warm milk with pinch of pepper & turmeric

Packaged soups




Carbonated beverages, Alcohol and smoking

Nutrition support for post COVID recovery

It is advisable to go slow for at least two weeks after recovery. Post-COVID, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue/ low energy levels, shortness of breath, chest congestion, poor appetite and anxiety and fear

·       Shortness of breath is a common complaint hence small frequent meals are advised.

·       Include whole grains like barley, broken wheat, oats, wheat, ragi (finger millet), bajra (pearl millet), jowar (sorghum), brown/unpolished rice or root vegetables such as yam, sweet potato.

·       Include good quality protein sources

·       Include unsalted nuts, seeds & dry fruits

·       Consume a minimum of 5 servings of fresh, seasonal and local fruits and vegetables.

·       Drink 8–10 glasses of water every day. It helps to transport nutrients in the blood, remove toxins, and regulate body temperature.

·       To avoid cough and mucus, sip on warm water throughout the day, have clear soups.       Try and avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, caffeinated drinks to prevent dehydration.

For more information, look out for our special cover story on Friday, May 21, called Wellness on a Plate

Twitter: @sharmidas

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