One of the most frightening aspects of the coronavirus pandemic are the complications many patients suffer from as a result of the virus. The complications can range from continued respiratory afflictions to liver damage and heart problems. In many instances, these complications have proven fatal.

Physicians and medical researchers have found that those who suffer from weakened immune systems are at greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19. They've also found that those with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity are also at greater risk of developing complications. Some risk factors can be managed or prevented with a healthy diet, exercise, and weight control.

Unfortunately, fewer of us are eating healthy diets, and the U.S. obesity rate continues to climb. In 2018, it was up to 42.6 percent, an increase from 39.6 percent two years prior. One reason for this rising rate is our diets, which have gotten worse as food production companies continue to popularize processed and packaged foods, and as fast-food options have become pervasive.

The vanishing of fruits and vegetables

As we've consumed more and more junk food, our consumption of healthy foods has declined drastically. Only one in 10 Americans eat the recommended five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

We know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. We've had this fact drilled into our brains since we were children. But to be fair, there are some barriers in place. Low-income Americans often live in areas known as food deserts — regions with few if any supermarkets that carry fresh produce and healthy foods. Fruits, vegetables, and other fresh items also often cost a bit more than many junk foods, making healthy eating more challenging for those scraping by.

Some of us also eat poorly as a result of a mental condition with which we struggle. Regardless of the reason, we put ourselves at increased risk of severe illness when we starve our bodies of the nutrients they need to function effectively.

Increasing our intake

If you rarely eat a single serving of fruits and vegetables each day, make it a goal to eat one apple (or other fruit or vegetable you like) each day for one week. And once you've done that for a week, add another.

As you start to add fresh foods to your diet, your palate will begin to change. Over time, you'll begin to crave fresh foods more and packaged foods less. Adding more fruits and vegetables will become more manageable, and you may begin to see some health benefits, such as increased energy. Moreover, adding fruits like potassium can help you feel fuller throughout the day and help stop you from overeating and gaining weight.

Of course, fruits and vegetables are only one part of the equation. Exercise, good sleeping habits, and other dietary modifications will help you keep the weight off, manage existing conditions, and prevent new ones from forming. But by getting into the habit of eating the recommended five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day, you can help increase your chances of living a long, healthy, and energized life.