Students take interest in nutrition, supporting immune system

Registered dietician Taylor Beard has found that the pandemic has brought more interest in personal health. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Annaleise Parsons | Staff Writer

With Baylor opening up the fall semester of 2020 with COVID-19 restrictions, one of the major areas impacted were the dining halls. More options for to-go meals, cutting self-serve buffets and food stations and limited seating in dining halls have been changes made to allow for social distancing.

Taylor Beard, the registered dietician for the Baylor community, found that in her work, the pandemic brought more interest into personal health.

“There’s been a huge uptick in interest in nutrition and health in general, especially in regards to things that would be able to boost your immune system,” Beard said. “A lot of interest in eating healthy and getting enough vitamins and minerals.”

Beard said about 40% of the students’ questions she answers on a day-to-day basis are about building the immune system in order to help fight COVID-19.

“I definitely think a diet could have an impact [on fighting COVID-19]…it will help you feel better and sleep better,” Beard said. “You’re going to get the most vitamins and minerals from plants, so obviously a diet high in plants…[along] with healthy proteins, eggs, meats, fish, chicken are going to have immune-supportive minerals.”

In a study published in the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, researchers found that “a balanced diet will guarantee a strong immune system that can help withstand any assault by the virus. There is currently no evidence that any supplement can ‘boost’ our immune system and treat or prevent any viral infections, except Vitamin C.”

Beard said she has also noticed that students are more interested in the plant-based options in the dining halls now, particularly the plant-based stir fry station at Penland Dining Hall.

Tulsa, Okla., freshman Rachel Gurley said that Penland Dining Hall has been the best option for plant-based foods.

“[Penland] has a vegan meal for every meal right by the pizza … It’s really good,” Gurley said. “There’s definitely more options than I realized coming into Baylor.”

Dining hall menus, meal plans and locations can be found online. For Baylor students, faculty and staff who would like to take the next step in creating a balanced diet, Beard is available via email for free nutrition counseling.