It’s no surprise that people across the globe are looking for ways to protect their immune systems by looking for the right “corona diet.” And while there’s no one diet that can cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19, it’s worth looking into the keto diet to help support your immune system.
Many people are questioning what the best protocol is for not only immunity but specifically virus-based immunity. While there’s no cure for the coronavirus yet, one tried and true method for boosting immunity is a healthy diet.
Specifically, a healthy diet that’s low in carbs and sugar, and high in nutrient-dense foods. In this article we’ll cover why sticking to keto is crucial for boosting your immune system, which foods are the best at fighting bad bugs, and how to stay keto when you’re in lockdown.
You may be following a ketogenic diet for any number of reasons, but if immunity wasn’t previously on the top of your list, you’re in luck because it can support your immune system too.
Research shows that the ketogenic diet can enhance the function of your mitochondria, decrease inflammation in your body, and help balance oxidative stress — three crucial components to a healthy immune system[*].
Even more compelling, however, is recent research that revealed how a high-fat, low-carb diet impacts viruses[*].
In a mouse model, researchers discovered that consuming a keto diet can activate immune defenses against viruses. These immune defenses specifically protect the lungs of the mice, enhancing the barrier functions and antiviral defenses[*].
While there’s still a lot more to learn about the coronavirus, it’s clear that your lungs are the primary target for this novel infection. Therefore, anything you can do to stimulate your immune defenses (especially in your lungs) is helpful.
Aside from the anti-inflammatory benefits of simply being in ketosis, there are many keto-friendly foods that can boost your immune function to protect your health further.
When considering immunity, you want to think about nutrient-density. That means foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other health-promoting bioactive compounds.
Luckily, a well-balanced keto diet is centered around nutrient-dense foods, many of which directly impact your immunity.
Most sources are telling people to load up on foods like lentils and whole grains because they have a long shelf-life, but those foods will kick you right out of ketosis.
If you can, focus on the below foods to keep your keto diet and your immunity strong.
Aside from the array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that green vegetables contain, research shows that eating your greens is crucial for proper immune function.
It appears that green veggies like broccoli and bok choy are the source of a vital chemical signal that regulates immune cells in your gut and skin. When mice are fed green vegetables, it upregulates a specific receptor on these immune cells.
Conversely, when they are deprived of green veggies, the immune cell receptors disappear, resulting in a lack of control over the microbes living on the intestinal surface[*].
There are loads of keto-friendly green vegetables that you can add to your diet, including; broccoli, spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, chard, and celery.
You can blanch and store veggies like this in the freezer or purchase already frozen or canned veg.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an immune-system powerhouse nutrient. While it’s well known for shortening the time frame of a common cold, it also has a place in fighting off viral infections
Specifically, research shows that in virus-induced respiratory infections, vitamin C can relieve symptoms up to 85%[*].
The first food that likely comes to mind when you think about vitamin C is citrus fruits like oranges. However, there are many keto-friendly foods that are rich in vitamin C and don’t come packed with the glucose that oranges do.
Some high vitamin C keto foods include kale, red peppers, broccoli, and strawberries. Again, think about buying these fresh, cleaning and cutting, then freezing them for a longer shelf life.
Foods Rich in Vitamin A
Vitamin A plays a major role in immunity. This vitamin is responsible for the expression of a myriad of immune cells, and the activation of antibodies that can protect your system from foreign invaders.
Research even shows that vitamin A supplementation can reduce mortality in certain infectious diseases, including HIV, malaria, and many more[*].
Keto-friendly foods rich in vitamin A include liver (lamb, beef, etc.), mackerel, salmon, tuna, and butter.
Butter is easily frozen and keeps for months in the fridge, while most fish can be found in the canned section. Get your liver at the butcher or order from a reputable meat delivery company or buy some in dried capsule form.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are the perfect go-to snack on the keto diet. They’re packed with immune-boosting nutrients, and they’re easy to take with you wherever you go.
Almonds are a fantastic source of vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that can support immune health, while brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium, an immune-boosting mineral.
Research shows that vitamin E and selenium support viral immunity by protecting your body against oxidative stress.
When these vital nutrients are deficient, relatively benign viruses can mutate into much more virulent ones — so be sure to keep your selenium and vitamin E status strong[*].
Magnesium is another mineral that’s found in a variety of nuts and seeds. Magnesium is crucial for both specific and nonspecific immune responses and is of particular importance for elderly people or athletes who need extra immune support[*].
Nuts have a much longer shelf life than most other fresh foods. They’re also calorie-dense, making them a great nutrient bang for your buck.
Protein and amino acids are vital to a healthy immune system. In fact, it’s well-understood that one of the downfalls of protein malnutrition is the increased risk of infectious disease.
In general, amino acids regulate a number of immune functions including[*]:
- Activation of T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes, natural killer cells, and macrophages
- Immune cell expression
- Lymphocyte proliferation
- Production of antibodies, cytokines, and other cytotoxic substances
Some research even suggests that In the case of infectious disease, amino acids could be the key to prevention and treatment.
Red meat is the perfect immune-boosting food because it not only contains a ton of protein, but it also comes packed with some essential immune-supportive nutrients[*].
One of those nutrients is zinc, a mineral that plays a crucial role in the health of your immune system by fighting oxidative stress and balancing inflammatory responses. In addition, research shows that zinc can help fight off viral-induced respiratory tract infections by inhibiting the viral replication[*][*].
Iron is another mineral you’ll find in your red meat that enhances immunity by supporting immune response and development. Iron is an essential mineral for the proliferation and maturation of immune cells, which help protect your body from disease[*].
By now, your freezer might be filling up, but consider making some more room for high-quality cuts of nutrient-dense red meat.
When shopping for your keto-friendly immune-boosting foods, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Make sure it’s nutrient-dense.
- Make sure it won’t go bad too quickly.
With this in mind, here are some key items to stock up on while you hunker down at home.
What to Buy for Your Pantry
Your pantry is probably getting a lot of love these days as pantry items tend to hold the most extended shelf life. Remember, when purchasing pantry items, it’s just as essential to go for organic and high-quality as it is for fresh items.
Here are your essential keto pantry items:
- Kettle and Fire bone broth and soups. The Kettle and Fire brand is incredibly high quality, and since these products don’t need to be refrigerated, they won’t take up valuable space in your fridge.
- Canned fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, herring). Make sure to buy brands that are low-mercury and come in BPA-free cans like Wild Planet and Safe Catch.
- Oils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil.
- Canned vegetables. You can find mushrooms, green beans, asparagus, olives, pickles, and pepperoncini in the canned section of your grocery store. The shelf-life on these veggies will take you much farther than the fresh versions, so go ahead and stock up.
- Rao’s pasta sauce. This is an excellent low-carb sauce that you can use on zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, miracle noodles, etc.
- Nut butters (almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter). Nut butters have a long shelf-life and they can be used for snacking or to add fat and texture to sauces.
- Nuts and seeds: Macadamia nuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds. Nuts make great snacks and they’ll stay good in your pantry for months.
- Condiments: low-carb salad dressings, simmer sauces, ketchup, BBQ sauce, stir-fry sauce, etc. Having a variety of sauces will help you keep your meals interesting so you don’t get stuck in a food rut while you’re social distancing.
- Whey protein and collagen protein These two items are perhaps two of the most crucial because most protein needs to be refrigerated. Both whey and collagen provide a range of amino acids that can support your immune system.
What to Buy for Your Refrigerator
Your refrigerator space is a bit more precious than the pantry since it’s limited in size. Therefore, any refrigerated items you buy should be as nutrient-dense as possible.
Here are your essential keto refrigerator items:
- Eggs. Eggs are considered the perfect protein, and depending on the sell-by date, they can stay good in the refrigerator up to four weeks.
- Dairy items like cheese and sour cream.
- Sausages and other nitrate-free prepared meats. Your freezer and refrigerator are where most of your protein will be stored, and prepared meats tend to have a longer shelf-life than fresh meat, so stock up on foods like sausages, pepperoni, and bacon for your fridge.
What to Buy for Your Freezer
Your freezer is prime real estate. Frozen food items will stay good the longest, so this is not the time to load up on keto ice cream.
Here are your essential keto freezer items:
- Ground beef, steaks, chicken, bacon, fatty fish. Fill your freezer with as much animal protein as possible. After your refrigerator stash is gone, you can slowly replace it with what you’ve stored in the freezer.
- Frozen vegetables. While your canned veggies are there as a safety net, frozen vegetables are much closer to fresh veggies when it comes to flavor and texture. Try to fill up your freezer with a variety of different frozen vegetables so you can rotate which ones you include in your meals. There are some great veggie mixes out there as well — cauliflower and broccoli, peppers and onions, and stir-fry mixes.
For some people, this whole social distancing thing is bringing to light a new issue — you don’t like to cook for yourself. If you fall into that category, this section is for you.
You may not be able to run out to grab food or order in your meals as much during this time, but that doesn’t mean you need to prepare yourself to be the next top chef either. There are some incredibly simple dishes that you can prep in under fifteen minutes that are keto-friendly, nutrient-dense, and satisfying.
Tuna salad will stay good in the refrigerator for a few days so you can prep in bulk. All you need is a couple of cans of tuna, plus some mayonnaise or low-carb salad dressing (two to three tablespoons) and some veggies (celery, onions, peppers).
Add all ingredients to a bowl, mix together, and you’re good to go.
Stir-fries are one of the easiest meals to prep. Chop up some chicken (or beef or fish), and add to your pan with some high-heat oil like coconut or avocado oil. Allow the chicken to cook for a few minutes and then add in your veggies. This is a great time to make use of your frozen veggies (broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, etc.). You can also throw in some canned water chestnuts or bamboo.
If you have a low-carb stir-fry sauce, add that in as well, if not simply season with salt, pepper, or whatever else calls to you.
Okay, so these meals may take a little more time to cook, but they don’t take any more work. All you need for a slow cooker meal is three ingredients:
- Protein of choice
- Veggies of choice
- Sauce of choice
As long as you have these three, you can’t go wrong. Just add your protein, veggies, and sauce to your slow cooker, turn it on, and let the cooker do the work. If you have an Instant Pot, it’s the same deal, but it’ll cook much faster.
Sheet Pan Meals
Just like slow cooker meals, sheet pan meals are a one-stop-shop. Simply add all your ingredients to one sheet pan and throw it in the oven. A great combo on the sheet pan is chicken with brussels sprouts tossed in avocado oil.
Frittatas are a fantastic option if you want to cook in bulk. A simple, yet nutrient-dense frittata recipe includes: 12 eggs, one bunch of kale, ½ yellow onion, 1 red bell pepper, turmeric powder, salt, and pepper.
Crack your eggs and add them to a large bowl, then add in your veggies (chopped), and spices. Mix everything together until it’s well-combined, then pour it into a casserole dish and bake at 425 degrees until the eggs are no longer jiggly.
Massaged Kale Salad
Kale can be a bit tough to eat when it’s raw, which is why massaging it can make all the differences in the taste and texture. One of the benefits of the high fiber content, however, is that even after massaging kale salad will stay good in the refrigerator for up to a week (even with dressing on it!).
Use massaged kale as your base and add in nuts, seeds, and roasted veggies. You can also top it with a protein like tuna, steak, or chicken.
To massage the kale: Chop your kale and put it in a large bowl. Add about two to three tablespoons of olive oil (or oil of choice). Using your hands, massage the kale to break down the fiber. This should only take about two to three minutes. You’ll know you’re done when the kale has shrunk down a bit, and its texture is softer.
Food can take you a long way when it comes to building immunity, but there are also some key supplements that can help boost your defenses against the coronavirus to keep in mind.
As mentioned earlier, vitamin C supplements are always a good idea when it comes to immunity. Vitamin D is another one to stock up on (especially since you’ll likely be spending more time indoors).
In addition, make sure you’ve got a good supply of the following:
Electrolytes play a key role in immunity by regulating signaling pathways between immune cells. Therefore, having an electrolyte supplement on hand should be top priority in case you get sick during this time[*]
Exogenous Ketone Base
Being alone at home with limited access to tempting food is a fantastic time to do a little intermittent fasting. Taking Perfect Keto Exogenous Ketone Base can be a nice way to get a boost of energy on a fasting day, or if you need to get moving and want a little pre-workout energy, just mix some ketones in water, and you’ll be good to go.
Whey Protein and Collagen Protein
Perfect Keto Whey Protein and Perfect Keto Collagen Protein are fantastic sources of amino acids that your immune system needs to function properly. They’re also great options for stocking up on protein that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
Perfect Keto Bars, Perfect Keto Chocolate Snacks, and Perfect Keto Nut Butter all make excellent snacks for your downtime at home. While you don’t want to rely solely on packaged goods, these shelf-stable foods are high-quality options, and they’re packed with ingredients you can feel good about.
MCT Oil and Powder
Perfect Keto MCT Oil Powder is another product to add to your pantry must-haves. One scoop of MCT Oil Powder in your morning coffee can replace your dairy creamer, and it will provide you with a boost of energy to get your morning going.
If you’re taking some alone time to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, there’s plenty of things you can do while social distancing to boost your immunity while staying in ketosis.
Healthy eating and taking care of your nutrition needs is crucial during this time, so be sure to load up your grocery cart with keto-friendly, immune-boosting foods.
In addition, make sure your supplement game is on point. Powdered protein like whey and collagen and keto-friendly snacks are crucial.