Ms. Deepti Khatuja, Clinical Nutritionist, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram
A well-balanced diet with adequate hydration is important for a healthier and stronger immune system, thus resulting in a lower risk of chronic illness and infectious diseases. Various studies have shown a strong connection between a good nutritious diet associated positively with innate and adaptive immunity.
A well-balanced diet helps in faster recovery. It is a diet that provides all the macro and micronutrients needed by the body for good health. Common and seasonal foods boost immunity.
Some examples are:
- Papaya, guava, apple, Grapes, mango, and many other fruits are rich in beta carotene (precursor of Vitamin A), Vitamin C, Potassium, 13 vitamins and folate which help in overall maintenance of health and immunity.
- Citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, lemons, sweet lime, goose berries, and red bell pepper are good source of Vitamin C.
- Green leafy vegetables are rich sources of beta carotene (precursor of Vitamin A). vitamins C and E. antioxidants and fiber.
- All seasonal vegetables and spices are rich sources of multiple micronutrients and antioxidants that aid in immune function-regulate gut microbiota and reduce inflammation.
- Curd is a source of many nutrients. improves gut health by regulating gut bacteria: aids immune function and reduces inflammation
- Millets are good sources of multiple micronutrients and fiber.
- Flesh foods provide many nutrients including iron, zinc and essential amino acids.
- Fish are rich sources of protein, vitamin A., ‘Vitamin E and essential fatty acids
It is important to have adequate Protein-rich foods in the diet as:
- Proteins and amino acid are the basic building blocks of body and helps keep the GI tract and immune system healthy.
- They support immune functions by
- Activation of immune cell functions
- Multiplication of immune cells
- Production of antibodies
- Deficiency causes atrophy of lymph organs with a reduction in T lymphocyte production
- Deficiency makes the skin and mucus membranes brittle and break down easily.
- Protein-rich foods include – All legumes and pulses, Soyabean, milk and milk products, nuts and seeds and non-vegetarian foods.
Some Studies mention the benefits of vitamin C for COVID survivors:
- Vitamin C has antioxidant properties and helps support Immune Cells against oxidative damage by neutralizing free radicals before they can cause harm to cells.
- It also supports the immune system in its vital roles in white blood cell production and function as well as other immune system cells.
- Helps in faster wound healing.
The Must do’s for covid Survivors:
- Optimize nutritional intake with a special focus on proteins.
- Add diet diverse food from each food group.
- At least 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables
- Increase probiotics/ prebiotics and fibre in diet
- Drink plenty of water. Hydration is important.
- Limit consumption of highly processed food and include more seasonal and whole foods like whole cereals/millets / whole pulses etc.
- Maintain ideal body weight
- Avoid smoking and alcohol which adversely affect immunity and risk and severity of infections
- Moderate physical activity to reduce stress and build immunity.
The Must avoids for better recovery:
- Limit consumption of highly processed.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol which adversely affect immunity and risk and severity of infections.
- Avoid high intake of juices and aerated drinks to maintain hydration.
- Avoid FAD diets.
Should people with lifestyle diseases or comorbidities include anything additional to their meals?
- NO, a well-balanced diet with regular physical Activity for 30-45 minutes every day, keeping in mind the dos and don’ts as per the medical requirements is good enough to take the nutritional needs.
- Food alternatives for people who are still struggling with diminishes taste and smell buds-
- Use of natural FLAVORINGS (like adding lemon juice to foods) with herbs helps in not just improving the taste but also improves the Nutrition and immunity.
- Apart from these, Nutritional supplements is a must to meet the nutritional requirements because of decreased oral intake due to taste. There are various kinds of nutritional supplements available in the market and if taken under proper guidance, results in faster recovery.
What should be the diet or plate or meal plan of someone recovering from COVID look like?