Winters are almost here and while we are all ready to the feast and indulge, it is important to take care of health as well, especially during COVID times. We are a little worried about our health because COVID is an infection that affects our respiratory tract. Scientists around the world are scurrying to gather evidence to predict how this infection will play out in the winter months. Will it mingle with other winter infections and become worse or will it subside? There is little evidence to the latter, but no one has definite answers for the former too. While our doctors and scientists gather evidence to guide us, we, at an individual level can work harder to protect ourselves against the pandemic by improving our immunity and our lung health.
I have in the 30 years of my practice concluded that eating healthy and adopting a healthy lifestyle are the only weapons for health that protect us against infection and noninfectious health concerns. This winter, we have no option to go slack or adopt a "chalta hai" approach. It is important that we don't let down our guard and protect ourselves and our family from any chance of getting infected.
Our body is a single environment. Adopting and maintaining healthy habits help the body function better and the immunity to remain robust. So here are steps to protecting ourselves this winter:
Here's How To Prepare Yourself For Winters In The Times Of Corona (COVID-19):
Eat healthy. Include whole foods and avoid processed food as much as possible. Consume foods that are closest to their natural form; they are the healthiest! Winters allows us to eat nutrient-dense food and digest it well as our systems work more efficiently to keep our bodies warm.
Consume whole grains like maize, bajra, ragi, amaranth and quinoa that provide not just calories and fibre but a whole lot of immunity-boosting minerals like zinc, magnesium, selenium in addition to phytonutrient chemicals that keep the oxidative stress under control.
(Also Read: Coronavirus: Top 11 Popular Food Myths Around The Disease Busted)
Vegetable vendors' stalls are a riot of colours. Each colour means a different set of antioxidant compound that help build immunity. Red means lycopene, which neutralises free radicals that damage our genetic material. The oranges and yellow contain beta cryptothanxin, which is heart protective. Greens are rich sources of sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles, which protect us against cancers to. Blue and Purple come from anthocyanins, powerful anti-aging compounds. The whites and browns also add antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol, both known to protect the body from detrimental effects of free radicals.
Dry fruits and nuts are tiny powerhouses of nutrients. Eat an ounce daily for healthy fats, fibre, proteins and phytonutrients. They keep you warm.
Spices and herbs are known for their medicinal properties. In recent times, we have been using homemade spice and herb teas and infusions to protect ourselves. Around 4 to 5 leaves of basil are a good way to start the day. Basil is known for its anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Ginger is used extensively for protection against cough and colds, so make sure to crush some into your tea. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric, with its potent curcumin, is known for anti-inflammatory and anti -bacterial properties. Use fresh turmeric powder as an infusion. In addition, fenugreek, garlic and cinnamon are also well documented for their protective properties.
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Experts recommend exercising not just to maintain body weight but also for its benefits in improving overall health. Other than aiding in overall health, exercise also prompts a healthy immune system functioning. You don't have to lift heavy weights, just normal workouts for 30 minutes a day and remaining physically active will do. Exercise helps deliver blood to all our organs more efficiently, ensuring that the nutrients reach where needed; this is may be another way that exercise helps boost immunity.
3. Stress And Sleep Cycle
As adults we need seven to eight hours of sleep. The connection between the brain and body becomes clearer with good sleep. As per a recent study, lack of proper sleep may result in stress, which further leads to a number of maladies - from an upset digestion to heart diseases. Getting adequate rest is crucial for our body as it goes into an R&R mode, healing, repairing and resting. Night is the best time to sleep, so this winter, tuck in tight to keep your strength up.
(Also Read: 4 Mood-Boosting Foods You Must Include In Diet During The Coronavirus Crisis)
Stressing won't help; these are tough times which will pass too. Talk to friends, read a book, listen to music, dance your blues away, and if required, reach out for help. No harm in taking a professional's help.
4. Yoga And Meditation
Pranayama helps improve chest wall expansion, strengthening our lung muscles. This has been scientifically proven. In addition, Surya Namaskar, which also involves controlled breathing, will help strengthen your lungs. Vitamin C is crucial for lung health; it is known to protect the host cells against oxidative damage caused by infections. Vitamin C can be taken as a supplement or in its natural form from citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, tomato, papaya, guava and amla.
The bottom line is that this winter, eat well, live healthy, wear a mask, maintain social distancing and stay away from crowded interiors where the ventilation is poor.
Stay safe, stay healthy!
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.