May 19, 2020 — 4 p.m. EST
Most of the advice that experts have recommended for avoiding COVID-19 is actually pretty simple. Of course, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, make sure your body’s in good shape by keeping up with a workout regimen, and pay attention to what you’re putting into your body. Foods that contain zinc, vitamin C, and other nutrients should be high on your grocery list right now — here’s why.
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Although there is currently a lack of evidence regarding whether zinc or vitamin C affect the duration and intensity of COVID-19, there’s reason to think they might. According to Anthony Caudillo, MD E.R. specialist and CEO of Mend Urgent Care, who appeared on The Dr. Oz Show on April 9, 2020, doctors think adding zinc and vitamin C can be helpful for COVID-19 treatment because they have been proven to help shorten the common cold, which can also be caused by types of coronaviruses (not the ones that cause COVID-19). Dr. Caudillo noted that this hypothesis is supported by what doctors already know: that zinc can disrupt viruses (exactly how is still not well understood).
If you’re looking to add zinc and vitamin C to your diet, here are a few ways to get them through everyday foods. However, keep in mind that getting these nutrients from food is different from taking them as supplements, so they may not have the same effects on viruses as seen in studies.
Foods High in Zinc:
Oysters/Shellfish: According to Healthline, six medium-sized oysters contain 291% of the daily recommended value (DV) of zinc.
Summer is just around the corner, and just because most restaurants might be closed in your area doesn’t mean you have to go a whole season without oysters. Pick some up at your local fish or seafood market. All you need is an oyster knife, which is under $10 at most online retailers, and protective gloves or a towel to grip the oyster with. Watch YouTube videos at home to learn how the pros shuck in style.
Red Meat: Dark meat has higher levels of zinc than white meat. Although excessive amounts of red meat has been linked to heart disease and certain types of cancers, red meat in moderation and balanced with healthy side dishes can be a helpful source of zinc.
Beans/Lentils: Just one cup of lentils can provide 23% of your DV of zinc. Since quarantine began, I’ve been making a lentil, kale, and mushroom stew that I’ve become obsessed with. The flavors are so rich and creamy and it only takes about 30 minutes to come together.
Other legumes that are high in zinc include white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas. Try incorporating kidney beans in a chilli or make your own hummus at home with a can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans.
Nuts & Dairy: According to Healthline, 100 grams of cheddar cheese contains about 28% of your DV of zinc. Low-fat yogurt has a similar DV. Nuts like cashews, almonds, and pistachios can have up to 33% of your DV of zinc, even dry roasted and lightly salted options.
Foods High in Vitamin C:
Of course there’s the obvious: orange juice and oranges, but here are some surprising foods that contain high amounts of vitamin C.
Red pepper: One sweet red pepper contains 203% DV of vitamin C. Try cutting it up like carrot sticks and dipping into hummus for a midday snack, or add them to your stir fry for dinner.
Kale: Just one cup of kale contains 107% of your DV of vitamin C. I’ve been buying bushels of kale from the grocery store for under $2. It’s cheaper to buy the bushel and rip and wash it yourself than buying the pre-washed bags of it. Once I clean and rip my kale leaves from the stems, I place it in a glass container in the fridge. That way I can reach for it easily throughout the week when I’m making meals.
Strawberries: One cup of strawberries contains 130% DV of vitamin C.
Sweet potatoes: If you’d rather get your vitamin C through a healthy starch, try sweet potatoes. One large red or sweet potato contains 48% DV of vitamin C.
Even if you’re not specifically looking to add more zinc or vitamin C to your diet, all the foods mentioned above (with the exception of red meat) are great to routinely add to your diet for other health reasons. Dr. Oz recommends consuming balanced meals made up of protein, beans, and greens as part of his COVID-19 Total Health Take Back plan. Look for these foods and use these hacks the next time you’re grocery shopping.