A study published in Frontiers, a journal about plant science, found that certain foods contain compounds that may be able to slow or even stop the replication of new COVID-19 cells in the body. Green tea, cacao, dark chocolate and muscadine grapes all contain compounds that can bind to the main protease (Mpro) in COVID cells. Once bound to the Mpro, these substances may prevent the virus from replicating and spreading.
North Carolina State University professor of plant and microbial biology, De-Yu Xie, worked with one of his Ph.D. lab students, Yue Zhu, on the study. They set out to test how the Mpro of COVID-19 would react with different plant compounds. Using lab studies and computer simulations, the researchers focused on plant antioxidants and those known for being anti-inflammatory.
The compounds in dark chocolate, cocoa, two varieties of muscadine grapes and green tea all bound to the Mpro of COVID-19 in a way that hindered its function.
6. Protease Pockets Can Lead to COVID’s Downfall
It turns out Mpro of COVID-19 has pocket-like structures that make it vulnerable. The compounds of green tea, dark chocolate, cocoa and muscadine grapes essentially filled these main protease pockets, which caused Mpro dysfunction during the study.
This type of Mpro dysfunction apparently wouldn’t prevent someone from catching COVID-19, but it could weaken the virus’s power and slow or stop the spread once inside the body. Disabling viral protease function in this way seems like a promising step toward decreasing the duration and severity of the infection.
Protease is an enzyme essential to the life cycle of a virus cell. When a virus like SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) penetrates a host cell in the body, it goes through several processes that allow it to reproduce itself. Protease jumpstarts the chemical reactions that breakdown proteins for virus replication. Once replicated, the newly made virus cells are released into the body.
Therefore, if the Mpro of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is compromised because of compounds in green tea and other foods, the virus cannot reproduce and continue to spread through the body.
5. Green Tea – A COVID Superfood?
Of the four foods the researchers found to be the most effective at inhibiting COVID cell replication, green tea and muscadine grapes had the best results. Professor Xie told MSN Lifestyle why green tea was successful at not just inhibiting but fully eradicating COVID’s main protease. “Green tea has five tested chemical compounds that bind to different sites in the pocket on Mpro, essentially overwhelming it to inhibit its function.” Xie said.
The high amount of antioxidants in green tea, including polyphenols and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), classifies it as a superfood for the immune system.
4. The Mighty Muscadine Grape
Two different types of muscadine grapes also managed to stop COVID Mpro’s ability to replicate the virus cells in the study. “Muscadine grapes contain these inhibitory chemicals in their skins and seeds.” Xie explained to MSN Lifestyle. “Plants use these compounds to protect themselves, so it is not surprising that plant leaves and skins contain these beneficial compounds.”
Muscadine grapes are native to North America and contain more polyphenols than any other variety of grape. No wonder they’re a powerful nutritional weapon in the battle against viral infections.
3. Cacao Powder Power
The study results showed cacao powder and dark chocolate were about half as effective at hindering COVID Mpro function as green tea and muscadine grapes, but still made a significant difference. Reducing a viral cell’s ability to replicate by 50% still could decrease its rate of spreading through the body. Weakening the COVID virus could make both the infection and post-recovery healing easier for some people.
Cacao beans and powder are rich with flavonoids, a sub-class of polyphenols that have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Dark Chocolate – The More Bitter the Better
Because dark chocolate is made of cacao, it comes with the same immune-boosting flavonoids. However, not all dark chocolate is created equal when it comes to nutrient value. The higher the cocoa content in the dark chocolate, the more antioxidant power it will hold.
Generally speaking, dark chocolate with 70% cacao and higher will give you enough flavonoids per serving for immune system support. Unfortunately, the higher the percentage of cacao the stronger the bitterness of the chocolate. Eat bitter dark chocolate in small amounts or use it in cooking and baking to make it taste better.Related: 17 Long-Term Effects of COVID-19, Straight from the CDC
1. Keeping Your Immune System Strong with Food
These and other whole foods can help strengthen your immune system to help make viral infections less of a threat to your body. Don’t forget to eat a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits for daily antioxidants from phytonutrients. Your immune system also needs healthy fats and protein from whole food sources like grass-fed meats, fish, avocado, nuts and seeds. Add a comforting cup of green tea or homemade hot cocoa to the mix and your body could have a better shot at fighting off viral infections and other illnesses.Related: Household Spread of COVID-19 Is Common and Quick