Nutrition and COVID-19

| April 13, 2020

Download this story

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have created nutrition guidelines for adults during the COVID-19 outbreak. Although food cannot cure or prevent infection with COVID-19, proper nutrition is important to overall health and well-being. People who eat a balanced diet tend to have stronger immune systems and are therefore at lower risk of developing illnesses and contracting infectious diseases than those who consume an unbalanced diet.

  • Eat fresh, unprocessed foods: Eat fruits, vegetables, legumes (e.g., lentils, beans), nuts and whole grains (e.g., unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, brown rice, or starchy tubers or roots such as potato, yam, taro, or cassava), and foods from animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, and milk).
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day: It is important to eat two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables every day. Try to limit cooking time for fruit and vegetables. When fruits and vegetables are overcooked, they lose valuable nutrients. When choosing canned fruits or vegetables, try to choose options without added sugar or salt. Fresh fruits and vegetables also make great snacks.
  • Drink plenty of water every day: Try to drink eight to 10 cups of water every day. Water is necessary for our bodies to function properly and helps to transport nutrients in the body. Drinking enough water also helps regulate body temperature and eliminate waste. Try to drink more water than fruit juices and fizzy drinks, which contain lots of sugar.
  • Eat moderate amounts of fat and oil: Try to choose lean meats such as poultry and fish instead of red meats such as beef, lamb, and goat. When eating dairy products, try to choose options with low or reduced fat. Try to avoid heavily processed foods with high fat content such as junk food, fast food, and fried foods. Foods such as fish, avocado, nuts, and olive, canola, sunflower, and maize oils have natural fats called unsaturated fats. Try to eat more of these than the saturated fats found in fatty meat, butter, cream, cheese, lard, and palm or coconut oils.
  • Eat less sugar and salt: When cooking, try to limit the amount of sugar or salt you add. Limit your daily use of salt to less than one teaspoon per person. Choose water over sugary drinks and fresh fruit over snacks such as cookies, cakes, and chocolate.
  • Avoid eating at restaurants: It is possible to have the virus without showing symptoms. If this is true for you, eating at home will reduce the chance of passing the virus to someone else. Eating at home will also reduce your contact with people who could have COVID-19. When you must be around groups of people, it is important to maintain at least two metres between yourself and other people. This may be difficult in a restaurant.
  • Practice food hygiene: There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through contact with food. However, food hygiene is still important to a healthy diet. To practice food hygiene, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before handling food, after handling food, and after going to the bathroom. It is also important to wash and sanitize all surfaces used to prepare food and ensure that the cooking area is free from animals and insects. Cook meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood thoroughly. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear, not pink. Use safe, clean water to wash food thoroughly, especially if it will be eaten raw. Select foods that have been processed for safety, such as pasteurized milk, and do not eat foods past their expiry date.
  • Limit consumption of alcohol: In stressful situations, some people are tempted to cope by using alcohol. Alcoholic drinks have little to no nutritional value. Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to serious health problems. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation and try to cope with stress in other ways, such as by talking on the phone with friends, enjoying physical exercise at home, and sticking to a regular sleep schedule.

For more information on the recommendations from the WHO, go to:

For more information on the recommendations from the FAO, go to: