Importance of Nutrition in handling Covid-19
The COVID - 19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) pandemic is one of the largest health and socio-economic crisis world had seen. Be it fiscally or existentially, there is hardly any sector or soul that has remained unblemished by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
Although there seemed to be an onrush of catastrophic news in the pandemic, there has also been a silver lining, i.e. a visible positive behavioral change in the nutritional and dietary habits of people around the world such as a shift in eating habits especially among urban populations, who generally (pre-COVID) tend to consume a lot of processed foods and dine out more often as compared to their rural counterparts.
According to a study conducted in the United States, eight out of ten consumers changed their eating habits due to the pandemic or the lockdown. A survey of 3533 Italian respondents focusing on diet, eating habits and lifestyle indicated an increase in homemade recipes, cereals, legumes and a decrease in fresh fish, packaged bakery products, and alcoholic intake.
India too has portrayed similar changes in the sphere of nutrition and dietary habits. Apart from the adverse effects of lockdown, the most common of which is increased incidences of obesity certainly due to lack of physical exercise, there had been favorable and marked changes in terms of nutrition education among common people. Now each and every one is aware of how their nutritional status and dietary practices can influence their overall wellbeing thereby making them less prone to infections.
But with such marked changes, we need to understand that COVID is not over yet and with the second wave of this catastrophic virus, it is pretty obvious as well. Instead of being eradicated, it will certainly stay with us just like any other flu virus. With the development of vaccine, people are now much at ease, but we still need to understand the seriousness of situation and in no case compromise with our health.
Since most of the people are still working from home in order to prevent the reckless spread of disease by reducing inter-human interactions, paying attention to consumption of healthy balanced diet is of prime importance.
Hence in order to stay fit, healthy and boost immunity, here are certain pin points for you-
1. Consume Immune Protective Herbs and Spices - Ginger, garlic, onions, oregano etc because of their active compounds gingerol, allicin, allicin sulphides and carvacrol repectively, have properties that helps fight off viruses and harmful bacteria, thereby giving the body’s defense a natural boost. Hence make them a part of regular diet. Consume ginger tea, add onion to salads or curries, consume 1 or 2 pods of crushed garlic early in the morning etc.
2. Munch more on Orange Foods - Carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes etc are rich in beta-carotene which has shown to protect lung function and act as a strong defender against various microbes. Beta-carotene also gets converted to Vitamin A which is crucial for immunity. Making tomatoes and carrots as a part of salad will be an effective strategy to get enough of beta – carotene everyday.
3. Eat Vitamin C Rich Foods - It contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular function of both innate and adaptive immune system. Citrus fruits (amla, orange, lemon, guava etc), bell peppers, broccoli and kiwi all are great sources of Vitamin C. Start your day with an orange or throw some sliced bell peppers in your sandwich. Studies have shown that Vitamin C can help prevent illness.
4. Zinc - Zinc is the key for immune function and its normal development. It tends to be lower in those who are older, who take antacids and in some vegetarians and vegans. Zinc is found in ample amounts in sea foods and meat. Consuming cereals, pulses, soyabean, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds are a good source for vegetarians.
5. Vitamin D - Vitamin D deficiency has been seen in almost 70% of people due to changing lifestyle and reduced exposure to the sunlight. This vitamin is essential for optimum immune function and has been shown to help address respiratory infections. Mushrooms and eggs are good dietary sources of Vitamin D with sun being the richest.
6. Vitamin E - It is a potent anti-oxidant and has an ability to modulate host immune functions. Sources include sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds, safflower seeds etc. However these sources are also dense in calories from fats, hence practice portion control.
7. Nuts - Include 15 – 20 gm of nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts etc) in your daily diet as they are good source of various minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium etc and also provide essentially fatty acids to your body thereby comprising an important component of a healthy balanced diet.
8. Green Tea/ Herbal Tea - Being a good source of anti-oxidants, it helps in eliminating wastes from your body which are continuously generated in the body due to various metabolic processes. It also helps in improving metabolism and gives your life a refreshing twist. 1 or 2 cups of green tea can be taken daily for best results.
9. Regularise your Workout Regime - With the closure of gyms and restricted movement, it might be difficult to perform rigorous physical activities but you can’t oversee the importance of workout due to this. Establish a workout regime that you can perform at home, it can include yoga, meditation and pranayam as well.
10. Wonder Nutrient Water - It is very important to keep your body hydrated all the time. It also enables the flushing of waste substances from our body. Drink at least 2 – 3 liters or 8 – 10 glasses of water in a day. Good water intake helps in regulating the body temperature, electrolyte balance and also helps in proper detoxification of the body.
However no single food is a “Super Food” that would boost your immunity instantly!!
Thereby, key lies in the consumption of a healthy balanced diet which should include a portion of cereals, pulses, milk along with its products, fruits, vegetables and nuts etc.
Using the following in your daily cooking or as tea may help improve the immunity over a period of time because of their beneficial active compounds:-
Turmeric Ginger Garlic Neem Tulsi
The Bottom Line
Balanced diet and good nutrition plays an important role in boosting the immunity over a period of time. Focusing on consumption of variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and condiments not only helps in meeting the body’s requirements for various micronutrients but also helps in maintaining the overall metabolic functioning of the body. However, it is also important to understand that no single food is a super food that will boost the immunity instantly. Hence, key lies in the regular consumption of a balanced diet with emphasis on fruits and vegetables. By incorporating the above mentioned foods in the diet, one can make sure to boost the immunity but the consumption has to be regular and consistent.
Also make sure not to overdo of such foods, spices and condiments because their excess may lead to gastric upset, excess heat in the body etc which detrimental for health.
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Author: Dt. Swapna Agrawal, Elate Wellbeing