What to eat to strengthen your immunity during the coronavirus pandemic

Can certain foods help ward off COVID-19? No, experts say. But foods high in vitamin C, zinc, and selenium may help strengthen your immune system

We know that there’s no medicine or magic bullet that can prevent or treat COVID-19, even though scammers might tell you otherwise.

The best defence against contracting the novel coronavirus still centres on still social and physical distancing as well as proper hand-washing. 

As much as a well-balanced diet is a cornerstone of overall health, there’s no evidence to suggest that any particular food will give you an edge over the illness.

“Simply put, you cannot ‘boost’ your immune system through diet,” Dietitians of Canada said in a recent statement pertaining to COVID-19. “No specific food, supplement or natural health product will prevent you from catching COVID-19.

“There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system and therefore we encourage eating a variety of healthy foods each day in order to support immune function,” the association advised. 

Those who are self-isolating because of COVID-19 and who have specific nutrition needs should continue to follow the dietary recommendations of their dietitian, doctor, or nurse practitioner.

“If you are self-isolating and especially if you have symptoms, it is important to maintain good nutrition and hydration,” the association said. “Make sure you are eating and drinking regularly, even if you have a low appetite.

“Contact your dietitian, doctor or nurse practitioner by phone or email if you have serious concerns.”

While all nutrients help the body’s immune system in differnt ways, the association also notes on its Unlock Food site that some research suggests that vitamin C, zinc, and selenium may make your immune system stronger. (Again, these nutrients won’t prevent contracting the novel coronavirus.)

The best way to get these nutrients is through food rather than supplements, the association says.

Here are a few sources:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron heal wounds it also acts as an antioxidant.

The top 10 foods for vitamin C content, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are:

  • Guavas
  • Kiwifruit
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Broccoli
  • Tomato
  • Kale
  • Snow peas

Ben Stern / Unsplash


This essential mineral builds proteins and helps maintain our sense of smell.

The top 10 zinc-containing foods are:

  • Oysters
  • Beef (chuck steak)
  • Chicken leg
  • Firm tofu
  • Lean pork chops
  • Hemp seeds
  • Lentils
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Shiitake Mushrooms

Other sources of zinc for vegetarians include fortified cereals, wild rice, and pumpkin seeds, quinoa, black beans, and green peas.


The body needs selenium for proper thyroid function. The nutrient may also help protect against free radical damage and cancer.

Check out these top 10 foods for selenium:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Tuna
  • Shellfish (oysters)
  • Lean pork chops
  • Beef (skirt steak)
  • Lean chicken breast
  • Firm tofu
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Shrimp
  • Shiitake mushrooms

Other vegetarian sources include kamut, oat bran, egg noodles, homemade granola, and low-fat Greek yogurt.


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