Foods that feed viruses: 2 foods you should never eat if you have one
Are seeds and nuts an important part of your diet? They can be a significant source of plant-based protein for many. In fact, nuts and seeds often make up the primary protein for those eating mostly raw foods and vegan diets. They also provide minerals like potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium but unfortunately are not a “go-to source” for any of our needed vitamins.
And very importantly during virus season, some components of seeds and nuts can actually lower your body’s resistance to viral infections and feed viruses.
The good: Nuts and seeds supply essential fatty acids
Vitality SuperGreen, found in the exclusive Body Ecology Antiviral Protocol, was developed to help heal a leaky gut. Try it as a nourishing morning drink by itself or in a smoothie. It’s great added to our Probiotic Protein Shake or as an afternoon energy booster and pick-me-up.
Besides providing a valuable, vegan source of protein, seeds and nuts can provide essential fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 are called “essential” because our body doesn’t make them, and we must consume them from the foods we eat to be healthy.
The exact ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is in dispute among researchers, but you should at least have a minimum of a one-to-one (1:1) ratio between the two. A 4:1 ratio is thought to be even healthier. This means four times more omega-3 to only one omega-6.
Together, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can play a crucial role in brain function and encourage normal skin, hair, and bone growth.
They also regulate metabolism, maintain reproductive function, and can help prevent depression, so they’re certainly essential.
The bad: When seeds and nuts are questionable
I’ve said for years that “all foods have a front and a back” (a good side and a reason to avoid them). Here are four critically important reasons why you may not want nuts and seeds in your diet or want to at least eat them with caution. Remember, we’re all very unique and are dealing with different health conditions.
Reason #1: Unfortunately, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is poor.
Here are a few examples:
- Almonds – 1 mg omega-3 to 3,501 mg omega-6.
- Hemp – 2,641 mg omega-3 to 8,236 mg omega-6.
- Pistachios – 60 mg omega-3 to 3,727 mg omega-6.
- Sunflower seeds – 475 mg omega-3 to 9,310 mg omega-6.
Reason #2: All nuts and seeds have phytic acid, unless you soak them for 8 hours before eating.
Even if you don’t, their phytic acid binds up the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium, and they can’t be fully absorbed.1-3
Phytic acid is the storage form of phosphorus in seeds, and it moderately inhibits calcium absorption. (But fermentation reduces phytic acid content.) In terms of zinc, the amount absorbed can vary from 5 to 50 percent, depending on the amount of phytate in the diet. Phytate irreversibly binds zinc in the intestinal lumen and accounts for the lower efficiency of absorption from plant foods. Iron-polyphenols and phytates can also interfere with nonheme iron uptake.
Reason #3: You might have a hard time digesting them.
In the early stage of eating the foods we recommend on the Body Ecology Diet, we do not suggest nuts and seeds since this is a time when your “digestive fire” is usually weak. Over time, as your inner ecosystem becomes more robust and balanced by eating fermented vegetables and drinking our probiotic liquids and Probiotic Protein Shake, your digestion should improve significantly.
However, nuts and seeds will always be hard to digest for some — so simply avoid them. You can still obtain omega-6 by cooking with avocado and using it in salad dressings.
Reason #4: Almost all nuts and seeds are high in oxalates.
But note: I did say “almost” all. Fortunately, some are lower.
The nuts with the lowest amount of oxalate are flax and pistachios. SunButter® is also low in oxalates and is a far better choice than peanuts or peanut butter. We’ve had macadamia milk tested in a lab at the University of Nebraska, and this delicious-tasting milk is lower in oxalate as well. (Oatmilk tested low, by the way, but of course, oats are not a nut or seed.)
Reason #5: There is another time when it’s best for virtually everyone to steer clear of nuts and seeds.
When you have a viral infection of any kind, take special care as seeds and nuts contain high levels of the amino acid arginine. Unfortunately, they don’t contain much lysine, the amino acid that’s been shown to help fight herpes and other viral infections.
In fact, excess arginine actually blocks the effects of lysine and can create a lysine deficiency. And while research has been conflicting, some studies show that arginine may even encourage attacks of herpes-like viruses.4,5
Basically, a diet with too much arginine enhances the growth of both acute and low-grade, chronic viral infections. This means the seasonal flu, COVID-19, and certainly bouts of chickenpox, shingles, Epstein Barr (mononucleosis), or even just a common cold sore (herpes)!
So, when you feel a virus coming on, or you suspect you’re harboring low-grade, chronic viral infections, be sure to avoid arginine-containing nuts and seeds.
Antiviral lysine to the rescue
Most experts believe that lysine doesn’t improve the healing of an actual outbreak of cold sores.
But the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai states, “Lysine has antiviral effects by blocking the activity of arginine, which promotes HSV replication… Supplementation may reduce recurrences or improve symptoms.”6 Lysine helps boost your body’s immunity and could protect you from future outbreaks.
Lysine may also help protect against osteoporosis by aiding calcium absorption, speed up muscle recovery after exercise, and prevent fatigue, dizziness, and appetite loss linked to deficiency. As a symptom-reducer, lysine is powerful, even showing promise in relieving the severity of a mental disorder like schizophrenia when taken alongside regular medication.7
Lysine requires adequate amounts of vitamin C and vitamins B1, B2, and B6. In fact, B6 is the “cofactor” for lysine, and low B6 levels can cause lysine deficiency. Vitamin D, zinc, and selenium also help protect against and fight viral infections. The recommended daily intake for lysine is 30 mg per kilogram of body weight or 13.6 mg per pound. A person weighing 70 kg (~154 pounds) should consume around 2,100 mg of lysine daily.8
So, what should you eat when you have a virus?
Heal your inner ecosystem to boost your immunity
A diet that builds the immune system and doesn’t feed a virus is essential. Our highly effective Antiviral Diet is ideal for times when you suspect a viral exposure or when you feel an outbreak coming on.
Strengthen your defense: Click here to learn more about the Body Ecology Antiviral Diet.
On a daily basis, the Body Ecology Diet (BED) provides a great way to strengthen your body against viral and fungal infections by cultivating a robust and balanced inner ecosystem of beneficial microbes. With a focus on adding specific fermented foods and drinks, following the Body Ecology program populates your intestines with probiotics that help aid digestion, increase nutrient absorption, and improve your immunity — making you less susceptible to infections of all kinds.
Avoid these sources of arginine if you have a virus:
- Nuts and seeds – Peanuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, etc.
- Soybeans – With the exception of miso soup, which is excellent during a viral outbreak.
Obtain your protein from these sources:
- Miso soup – Yes, this fermented soy is an excellent source of protein when you have a viral infection. It’s a very good source of vitamin K and also beneficial anti-inflammatory bacteria, especially Bacillus strains. Though miso paste is not a significant source of Bifidobacteria, Bifidus strains increase in the gut when miso soup is eaten.9,10
- Fermented milk kefir – While we don’t recommend kefir made from dairy on Stage 1 of the Body Ecology Diet while your inner ecosystem is healing, it can be integrated on Stage 2 if dairy is well-tolerated.
- Raw fish – Sashimi (raw fish), a major food in Japan and now popular around the world, is fine to eat during a viral outbreak. Fish are mild and may be easiest to digest.
- Body Ecology Probiotic Protein Shake – Mixing in an alkaline green food designed to help heal the gut, like Vitality SuperGreen, can add more wonderful ingredients to our delicious-tasting protein shake.
Alkalizing is key:
- As soon as you feel the slightest sign of a potential viral outbreak, stop everything you are doing. Sit down, put up your feet, and slowly sip on a 12-ounce glass of water with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar added to it. If it’s too sour for you, then add a few drops of stevia to taste.
- Eat mostly veggies, especially raw because raw is cooling. Use them to make smoothies. But avoid sweet veggies like baked sweet potato.
- Eat alkalizing, fermented vegetables and homemade pickles. And, please, don’t throw away the juice they are fermenting in. That fermented juice is excellent for you, as are our probiotic liquids: InnergyBiotic and CocoBiotic.
Keep in mind that until your inner ecosystem heals, most nuts are too acid-forming to consume.
A small amount of nuts and seeds can be a wonderful addition to a healthy diet for many, but they are not meant to be eaten in large quantities like we’re doing today. (That’s why Nature makes it so hard to get into their shell.) And, if you feel the signs of the flu or a viral outbreak coming on, well, this is the time to avoid them completely. Increase your intake of lysine, along with vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc.
If you’re ready to start gaining control over a viral infection, we urge you to begin with our complete 4 to 10-day Antiviral Protocol.
The Body Ecology Living Cookbook also has many tasty and delicious recipes for everyone, including people following vegetarian and raw food diets. It contains flavorful recipes with key foods mentioned in this article, like the Omega-3 Nutrient Boost Smoothie and the Avocado and Grapefruit Salad.
- 1. Harold H. Sandstead, Causes of Iron and Zinc Deficiencies and Their Effects on Brain, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 130, Issue 2, February 2000, Pages 347S–349S.
- 2. DJ, Collins BK, Thorne JG, Nasisse MP. Effects of L-lysine and L-arginine on in vitro replication of feline herpesvirus type-1. Am J Vet Res. 2000 Dec;61(12):1474-8. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.2000.61.1474. PMID: 11131583.
- 3. L Hallberg, M Brune, M Erlandsson, A S Sandberg, L Rossander-Hultén, Calcium: effect of different amounts on nonheme- and heme-iron absorption in humans, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 53, Issue 1, January 1991, Pages 112–119, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/53.1.112.
- 4. Lönnerdal, B. “Dietary factors influencing zinc absorption.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 130,5S Suppl (2000): 1378S-83S. doi:10.1093/jn/130.5.1378S.
- 5. Griffith RS, DeLong DC, Nelson JD. Relation of arginine-lysine antagonism to herpes simplex growth in tissue culture. Chemotherapy. 1981;27(3):209-13. doi: 10.1159/000237979. PMID: 6262023.
- 6. “Lysine.” Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2020.
- 7. Caroline Wass, Daniel Klamer, Evangelos Katsarogiannis, Erik Pålsson, Lennart Svensson, Kim Fejgin, Inga-Britt Bogren, Jörgen A Engel and Birgitta Rembeck. L-lysine as adjunctive treatment in patients with schizophrenia: a single-blinded, randomized, cross-over pilot study. BMC Medicine, (in press).
- 8. Leinonen, I., Iannetta, P. P. M., Rees, R. M., Russell, W., Watson, C., & Barnes, A. P. (2019). Lysine Supply Is a Critical Factor in Achieving Sustainable Global Protein Economy. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 3, . https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00027.
- 9. Dimidi, Eirini et al. “Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease.” Nutrients vol. 11,8 1806. 5 Aug. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11081806.
- 10. Marco, Maria L et al. “Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond.” Current opinion in biotechnology vol. 44 (2017): 94-102. doi:10.1016/j.copbio.2016.11.010.