The world is currently experiencing the pandemic of Coronavirus (CoV). As we are now facing the second wave of Covid-19, it’s high time that we re-focus on our diet and also on our immunity. With so many people falling ill from the coronavirus, unhealthy diets are contributing to pre-existing conditions that put them more at risk. This small virus has made us introspect the way we eat & live.
Diet is crucial to maintain immunity and keep diseases at bay. Optimal nutrition helps to strengthen the immune system (both adaptive & innate immunity) & promote early recovery. It is prudent to include a variety of foods on a regular basis to get the utmost benefit.
Vitamins (A, B, C, D, E) & Minerals such as (zinc, selenium, iron), Phytonutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids (proteins) are very important in building immunity & should be incorporated on a daily basis in the diet. No single food is recommended over another & Moreover “Variety is the key”.
Here are some sources of the important key nutrients: -
- Proteins: - It plays an important role in immunity. Also crucial for healing & recovery. Some sources include: - dals, pulses, lean meats, fish, eggs and poultry, milk & milk products, soya, unsalted nuts & seeds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: - Possesses antioxidant properties & enhances the function of immune cells. Sources include: - fishes like mackerel (Bangda), salmon (Rawas), Bombay duck (Bombil), Surmai, rani fish. Other sources include walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds.
- Vitamin A: - has anti-oxidant properties. Sources: - All yellow, orange, red colored fruits & vegetables. Sweet potato, carrots, spinach, mango, papaya, egg yolk, milk & milk products.
- Vitamin D: - reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines & helps in immunity. Sunlight exposure between 11am-1pm. Sources include milk & milk products.
- Vitamin E: - acts as an antioxidant & free radical scavenger & helps in reducing inflammation in the body. Sources include: - Sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds.
- All B-Complex vitamins serve a major role in building immunity, help in repairing the wear & tear in the body.
- Vitamin C: - most vital nutrient in building good immunity. Stimulates antibody formation, supports cellular functions, antioxidant & anti-inflammatory properties. Sources include: - amla, guava, citrus fruits like (oranges, grapefruit), papaya, strawberries, raw mango, capsicum, lemon, green leafy vegetables, moringa leaves.
- Prebiotic & Probiotic foods: - 70% of our immune cells are in the gut. Probiotics are the “good bacteria” or beneficial “live micro-organisms” which help keep your gut heathy. Prebiotics serve as food for the good bacteria (probiotic). Both Prebiotics & Probiotics help in strengthening the immune system & increasing immune response. Probiotic sources:- fermented food products, curd. Prebiotic sources:- garlic, onion, banana, barley, oats, apples, flaxseeds, wheat bran
- Functional Foods like turmeric, ginger & garlic, spices like pepper, cinnamon, cloves etc. are beneficial as it has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidant properties. It should be incorporated in the right amounts in the daily diet to reap its benefits.
Some useful dietary and lifestyle guidelines: -
- Make healthy eating a lifestyle. Follow a healthy diet & make the right choices from available sources.
- Ensure that you consume a variety of foods. Prefer locally grown foods & seasonal fresh produce as it is loaded with goodness of nutrients.
- Say no to packet, preserved, processed foods.
- Choose traditional recipes & methods of preparation.
- Hydrate yourself well. Try including coconut water, unsalted buttermilk, sattu, lemon juice, veg soups etc. to increase fluid intake.
- Staying active is the key to staying fit. Exercising for at-least 30 mins daily will give you an endorphin boost & make you feel good.
- Get a good night sleep of 7-8 hours daily.
- Lastly, get vaccinated at the earliest. It’s another weapon to build immunity against covid.
- Don’t panic & Avoid taking Stress as it can weaken the immune system.
Just stay safe, wear your mask properly & practice social distancing. Relax, this phase too shall pass.
FOR ANY DIET ADVICE, CONSULT A QUALIFIED DIETITIAN ONLY.
Ms. Aamatulla Y Kapasi
(Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, PGCND)