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Foods You Shouldn't Eat If You Have COVID

Steer clear from these foods so you can boast a healthy recovery to the best of your ability.

When you're sick, there's nothing better than making (or ordering) comfort foods to help soothe your soul and keep your spirits high. However, some of these foods may make your symptoms worse—or at least prolong them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should turn your focus to foods that are rich in virus-fighting vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc—especially if you have COVID-19.

Below are five types of foods that may potentially interfere with your ability to heal, as well as promote inflammation. And don't miss The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

Processed packaged foods

Woman reaching for chip and holding soda in processed junk food array on table with popcorn

If you have COVID-19, the last thing you'll want to eat is something riddled with sodium, preservatives, additives, and added sugars. Each of these things are known to cause inflammation in the body.

"Processed foods, with their high sugar levels, omega-6 fatty acids, excess sodium, and junky additives, on the other hand, can stoke the fire of inflammation," Sydney Greene, MS, RD previously told ETNT. "When inflammation is high, it taxes the immune system leaving us more susceptible to disease and illness."

Avoid eating junk foods that are sneakily hiding sodium and other unhealthy additives used to increase shelf life, such as salty potato chips and other packaged foods.

Red meat

Red meat

Whether you have COVID-19 or not, red meats should largely be avoided due to their high saturated fat content, which can promote inflammation. As you combat the virus, it's important to eat foods that work to reduce inflammation. This means loading up on monounsaturated fats found in plant-based sources, such as avocados, olive oil, and salmon. Instead of red meat, opt for fish and plant-based proteins, such as beans and lentils.

Fried foods

fast food

Fried foods, including a wide array of fast foods, are often greasy and high in fat. If consumed in excess, fried foods could wreak havoc on your immune system. They can negatively impact gut microbiome and ultimately suppress immune function. Fried foods can also increase "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, which is linked to cardiovascular disease.

"When foods are fried, they become more calorically dense, because the outer part of the food loses water and absorbs the fat [or] oil," Ashley Kitchens, MPH, RD, LDN previously told ETNT. "The oils in which foods are fried can contain trans fat, which has been shown to raise your LDL."

Bottom line: It's best to avoid consuming fried foods as you recover from COVID-19.

Sugary drinks


Added sugars are also known to cause inflammation in the body. Angel Planells, MS, RDN, a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, told ETNT that soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages should be avoided while following an anti-inflammatory diet. If you like soda for the carbonation, consider mixing four ounces of unsweetened, pure cranberry juice with four to five ounces of sparkling water to get your bubbly fix.

And don't miss 16 Subtle Signs You're Eating Too Much Sugar.

Spicy foods

spicy food

Avoid spicy foods, because spices may irritate your throat or cause you to cough further. At the same time, if you're uncomfortably congested, eating foods that pack heat may help to clear out your sinuses. Depending on your symptoms, it may be best to go for something milder just to play it safe.

For more tips on diet and the coronavirus, be sure to read 5 Ways Changing Your Diet May Protect You From COVID.

Eat This, Not That!
Inspired by The New York Times best-selling book series, Eat This, Not That! is a brand that's comprised of an award-winning team of journalists and board-certified experts, doctors, nutritionists, chefs, personal trainers, and dietitians who work together to bring you accurate, timely, informative, and actionable content on food, nutrition, dieting, weight loss, health, wellness, and more. Read more about Eat This