Eating the right food in the right amount is essential to maintain a healthy body. We know that any particular food cannot protect us from Covid-19 but we can have a healthy diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep our immune system strong and to fight infections. Proper nutrition, hydration, sleep and exercise are essential during this tough time.
Our daily diet should include fruits and vegetables which have lots of vitamins and antioxidants. Vitamin C helps to build up the immune system. It increases the production of white blood cells which helps to fight infections. Lemons, oranges, grapefruit, gooseberry, bell peppers, guava, papaya are rich sources of vitamin C. Carotenoids, which are good infection fighters, are present in Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D or sunshine vitamin is mostly lacking in all individuals as most of us spend the majority of time indoors in summer. Include vitamin D rich foods like salmon, mackerel, tuna, mushroom, egg, etc, and vitamin D fortified milk and cereals. Sun exposure is always the best way to increase vitamin D.
Fifteen minutes of daily exposure to the sun helps to maintain sufficient amounts of vitamin D. If vitamin D is low, it can be increased with supplements. Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant to fight infections. Almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts, etc are good sources of vitamin E. Removing the seed of sunflower seeds and enjoying it can be a good lockdown family activity.
Beans and lentils should be a part of the daily diet as they contain folates which help to maintain immunity. Iron helps to carry oxygen in the body so keep the iron levels high by taking in lean meat, poultry, beans, broccoli, green leaves, dates, etc. Selenium makes the immune system powerful.
Brazil nuts, lean meat, poultry, seafood, etc are good sources of selenium. Zinc helps in producing new immune system cells. They are present in seafoods, lean meat, beans, nuts, yogurt, avocado, etc. Magnesium helps to reduce anxiety which is needed during the pandemic and it helps in body metabolism. Include walnuts and small amounts of dark chocolate in the daily diet that helps to maintain magnesium levels.
Adequate energy is needed for our body on a daily basis. Include complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, etc to get sufficient energy instead of white flour products.
Some of the herbs and spices are considered immunity boosters. Garlic and ginger helps to inhibit the attachment of viruses to cells to some extent. Turmeric helps to ward off infection by the action of curcumin present in it. Curcumin acts as being anti-inflammatory and antiviral. These can be included in our daily diet by adding to different preparations.
The concoction of water made with coriander seeds, cumin, fennel seeds, and ajwain is good to maintain gut health and keep away acidity issues.
Green tea is a good source of antioxidants because of the high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Probiotic foods like yogurt, Yakult, fermented cabbage, cucumber, etc help to maintain healthy gut bacteria which play a great role in immunity building.
Follow meal timings and plan meals ahead. Try to include a variety of foods in the daily diet rather than depending on one or two particular foods so that we will be getting all essential nutrients in the required amounts. Practice mindful eating as we might be spending more time home and end up eating more due to boredom.
Hydration is another key factor to maintain a healthy body. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily. Good sleep of around 7 hours is essential to keep our immunity high and for good brain activity. Exercise of about 30-45 minutes should also be a part of daily routine.
Practice some breathing exercises daily. It also helps to bring down the stress level.
Follow the safety guidelines of wearing a mask, social distancing, and hand sanitizing. Stay home as much as possible and be safe.
(The author is a clinical dietician, KIMS Oman Hospital)