You Need This in Your Diet After Your COVID Vaccine, Doctor Warns

The essential nutrient benefits your immune system and helps boost your energy.

After months of anticipation, millions of Americans have been vaccinated for COVID-19, and millions more continue to schedule their appointments each day. If you are among the latter group, it is important to know that when the day comes for your own shot, you want to make sure it has the maximum effect on your immune system, but also keep some of those potential unpleasant side effects to a bare minimum. And one way you can do that, experts say, is monitor your daily diet and food intake. Read on to discover what you should be eating once you've been vaccinated, and for some things to avoid during that time, Don't Do This for 2 Days After Your COVID Vaccine, Doctors Say.

Eat plenty of protein.

Steak and eggs high-protein breakfast meal

Experts say that incorporating a sufficient amount of protein in your post-vaccine diet can help strengthen your body's immune response and put you on the road to a smooth recovery. Integrative physician Ronald Hoffman, MD, told HuffPost that "the development of immunity depends on the body 'reading' instructions from the vaccine and synthesizing antibodies and white blood cells, which requires adequate protein in the diet."

In addition, preventative global health expert Sandra El Hajj, PhD, said eating protein after your vaccine can help you avoid feeling physically weak. "Your body will need to burn a lot of energy. If you do not offer enough proteins through your diet, your muscle mass will start decreasing. As a result, you will feel weaker," she said.

Nutrition consultant Jeanette Kimszal, RDN, also noted that foods high in protein are also rich in amino acids that can help improve immune system function. And for the info you should remember to get before heading home from your appointment, check out The One Question You Should Ask Before You Leave Your Vaccine Center.

Skip all juice cleanses and detox diets.

Mid adult woman making cold-pressed juice in the kitchen. Focus on cold-pressed juicer

The days following your vaccination may seem like a good time to hit your system with some fruits and vegetables in the form of a juice cleanse or detox regimen, but experts say you should hold off on that for a while. "A juice cleanse is devoid of protein and fiber. These are two nutrients that can protect and strengthen the immune system," Kimszal said. And for something that you should do after getting your COVID shot, check out The First Thing You Need to Do After You're Fully Vaccinated, Experts Say.

Eat a well-balanced diet.

Healthy vegetarian dinner. Woman in grey jeans and sweater eating fresh salad, avocado half, grains, beans, roasted vegetables from Buddha bowl

There's no big secret when it comes to your post-vaccine diet other than making sure it is healthy and well-balanced.

"Eat a normal healthy meal, mostly plant-based with whole foods and healthy oils," suggested physician, scientist, and author William Li, MD. "Avoid ultra-processed foods and artificial sweeteners." It also can't hurt to throw in some foods that are known help strengthen the immune system. "Mushrooms, broccoli sprouts, and blueberries all have evidence for supporting immunity in human studies," Li said. "These are delicious and have many health defense-boosting properties." And for more information on the COVID vaccine delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Stay hydrated and avoid drinking alcohol.

Older man drinking water

The food you're consuming isn't the only thing you need to be thoughtful about following your vaccine. Li also stressed the importance of staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol because it can depress the immune system.

Tania Elliott, MD, a clinical instructor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, told Health that drinking alcohol after your vaccine could even make your side effects more severe. "Vaccine side effects include muscle aches and pains and feeling under the weather," she said. "Compounding that with the side effects of alcohol runs the risk of making you feel worse." And for the things that remain off limits even after being vaccinated, check out The CDC Says Don't Do This Until 4 Weeks After Getting Vaccinated.

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