What to eat in a pandemic

Today is the day you make your weekly expedition to the grocery store for needed supplies. Other than checking the ever-popular toilet paper aisle, what should you look for? While it’s tempting to go for the comfort or convenience foods, consider loading up on foods that can really make a difference in fighting off a virus.


Berries and grapes. Pick up a package of strawberries or a bag of red grapes. They’re loaded with resveratrol – a nutrient that fights inflammation and helps keep viruses from multiplying in your body.

Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, swiss chard and cabbage all contain a sulfur-containing compound that gives a great boost to the immune system. To get the maximum benefit, eat them raw and chew them thoroughly. Or chop them and wait 30-40 minutes before cooking them.

Onions and garlic are great virus fighters. One study showed that garlic reduced viral respiratory tract infections by 63%. Even if garlic didn’t fight the germs, it will keep your contagious friends at a distance!

Apples contain a substance called quercetin that helps prevent lung damage caused by the flu. This substance can also be found in green leafy vegetables, beans and onions.

Mangos, sweet potatoes and carrots are loaded with the immune-boosting beta carotene. Go for any fruits and vegetables that are dark yellow or orange.

Kiwi, oranges, bell peppers and strawberries are great sources of vitamin C, which also strengthens your immune system.


Sugar weakens the white blood cells so they cannot fight off infection as effectively. And fatty foods are just as bad. One study showed that a high-fat diet reduced the activity of the disease-fighting natural killer cells by 79% compared to a low-fat diet. 

What if I eat what I want and just take a vitamin? Vitamins are usually most effective when they’re packaged in plant foods. This is likely because the benefits come from a combination of nutrients and not just one isolated vitamin. Don’t assume that a pill will give you the same benefit as a mango or a kiwi.

So be safe in your shopping trip. Make your trek when the stores are less crowded, take a face mask, and of course, wash your hands when you get home!

by MS RDN LDN Dorothea Sarli, Registered Dietician Nutritionist