Food that we consume provides nutrients that nourish our body. A well-nourished body fights infection better. Nutrition is the corner stone for a strong immune system that has to fight back the infection. If you are quarantined, your access to fresh ingredients may be limited and the thought of preparing meals may not appeal to you. However not eating isn't an option and even if your taste buds aren't working, you have to EAT to get better. If you are losing weight, it means you aren't eating adequate meals so push back and make an effort. Here is a detailed guide on what is important and how to make easy choices.
1. Don't quit on carbs: Adequate energy intake is the first need for our body. Energy comes from carb rich foods that include whole grains, vegetables, dairy and legumes. Choosing whole grains is good for health, but it is even more essential for COVID patients because this infection is associated with oxidative stress like no other. Whole grains are rich sources of antioxidants, in addition to that millets also bring a lot of phytonutrients to our meals. Make simple whole grain rotis, boil some brown rice, choose oat based muesli or put a quinoa salad together. Whole grains are also rich in energy and keep the body energized for longer. Steroids have a tendency to push up sugars, whole grains balance out the blood sugars well.
Easy tip: Cook a large quantity of rice and refrigerate it in quantities that you would consume at one time. Muesli is almost a complete meal. Ready to eat rotis are available and just need to be heated. Make sure you purchase quality products. Boil some extra potatoes, they make a quick snack.
2. Eat more protein: Proteins are the building blocks of our body. We need to support the integrity of our lung tissue, our immune system has to be robust- and for both proteins are very essential. Dals are the simplest way to add proteins in our meals. Whole dals are also very rich in Phytonutrients that will give an additional antioxidant support. Eggs are A class protein sources like chicken and mutton, but these should be fresh frozen not processed.
Easy tip: Paneer can be eaten raw and it is easier to cook than a dal. Tinned beans and chickpeas are ready to eat. Nuts and seeds add proteins and make good snacks. Yogurt is easy to keep and consume. Sprouted dals are also easy to cook.
3. Choose Healthy Fats: Oils and fats add concentrated energy. This is not the time to abhor fats. Do not fry or add too much in the food but a little extra oil content will help fuel the body. Put a little ghee on the chappati, add a nice tadka to the dal, try nut butters to have a healthy sandwich.
Easy tip: Butter and cheese help make a whole meal sandwich. Keep them handy.
4. Milk and Dairy: The all in one food that also add antioxidant phytonutrients to our meals. Intake of 600mls/ day is a must. Milk is a warm fluid that nourishes and soothes a sore throat. Dahi or Yogurt is also essential. All those medicines disrupt digestion, so a natural probiotic is the safest way to protect the gut. With a sore throat and cough being the most common symptom of COVID, people are a little wary of eating dahi, but do take it at room temperature and if you feel uncomfortable then keep it for your lunch and may avoid it in dinner.
Easy tip: Get a large quantity of milk and freeze , defrost the amount you need on a daily basis it will save you calling for help. Dried milk powder and condensed milk will also be an easy substitute.
5. Fruits and vegetables: They are something that you must have in maximum quantity. 5 serving through the day. Choose as colourful fruits and vegetables as possible. Each colour adds a unique antioxidant that is healthy for our body. It adds fibre and lots of vitamins, minerals that are crucial for our immune system , they also keep us hydrated, and vitamins help fight the infection. Vitamin C , as we know is one of the most crucial nutrient for lung health. In addition to citrus fruits, Papaya, tomatoes, Kiwi, Mango are all excellent sources of this Vitamin.
Easy tip: Buy vegetables that stay longer. Green leaves may not work right now, but gourds, carrots, peppers are easy to cook and easy to digest. Chop fruits and vegetables and store in an air-tight container.
6. Nuts and seeds, dry fruits: These tiny wonders of nature are packed with healthy fats, complex carbs, Antioxidants and proteins. Your go to snack should be almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and raisin mixture. One fistful will do the job.
7. Fluids: Hydration is the first need of the human body. Have adequate water, fresh coconut water, Chaas, and warm infusions of spices like Cinnamon, Ajwain, Saunf, Giloy sticks, Ginger. You can make them in various combinations and if your blood sugars are normal then you can add Honey to it. Broths and soups will also soothe the throat.
- Packaged food, ready to cook ready to eat food as this is usually high in salt and spices and may not provide the same nourishment as fresh food.
- Excessive intake of sugary drinks. These nutrient free drinks add to the oxidative stress and they fill up the stomach without providing nourishment. Excessive sugar intake is also not to good for gut health.
- No alcohol never mix alcohol with medication. Alcohol also weakens the immune system. It may be good for killing the virus on surfaces, but it does not protect against COVID.
- Healthy food is the cornerstone for rapid recovery and blunting the effect of any illness. Remember, to fight COVID , the medicines work better and faster in a healthy body.
Stay safe, Stay positive.
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.