Amid a rising number of Covid-19 cases, it is quite normal to ask ‘what to do’ to keep the virus away. And the most common answer is ‘having a diet that builds immunity’ to prevent the disease.
Shabib al Kalbani, Clinical Nutritionist, Ministry of Health, puts stress on having warm beverages and soups rich in broth and vegetables. “It is very important to have enough fluids, fruits and vegetables, as these are required for adequate vitamins, minerals and electrolyte consumption”.
The dietician stressed that everyone must ensure the use of lemon, ginger and turmeric in their food and hot drinks as they have antioxidant properties. He also suggested including natural honey in a daily diet.
Talking about nutrition he asked not to go for processed food and sugary beverages. “Processed food and sugary beverages are to be avoided as much as possible as refined sugar can depress immunity”.
“There is no particular research to combat the coronavirus with nutrition, but a balanced diet can improve immunity that can fight the disease. This is particularly important for the elderly and children. Nutrients that have been implicated in improving immunity include vitamin A, C and E and minerals such as selenium, iron and zinc”, he explained.
This is why the vitamins are extremely important Kalbani pointed out. “Vitamin A for example, forms the cell barriers in the skin, the respiratory tract and the digestive tract, plus it forms antibodies to ward off infection-causing pathogens (these are found in salmon, kingfish, nuts, seeds, wholegrain and legumes) beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A is also found in carrots and pumpkins. Vitamin C and E for example, help build collagen and protect cells from free radicals, those of which can cause oxidative stress. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, berries, broccoli and capsicum. And vitamin E is found in most vegetable oils and seeds such as sunflower seeds and flaxseeds”.
Even with all the nutrients included in the diet, safety measures are the most important factors, noted the dietician. “It is important to follow the guidelines issued by the government like self-isolation, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, avoiding handshakes and maintaining a required distance between people”.
It is important, according to him, to choose raw materials carefully and watch for food labels, date of production, and date of expiry. Make sure as well that animal protein sources are cooked thoroughly before serving to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Drinking enough fluids along with regular servings of fruits ensures a good amount of electrolytes and minerals is consumed.
Those who are diabetic need to follow the advice given by their dieticians or doctors to have their blood glucose within the normal range.
Furthermore, Kalbani explained that there is some misconception regarding nutritional supplementation (those that come in the form of pills).
“People are tech-savvy these days and will search far and wide for information through search engines and most probably through unreliable sources, and then will go to nearby pharmacies to ask for these. Supplements, in general, are not regulated by any well-known authority and their consumption does not require medical prescription. However, overdosing of these substances can induce toxicity and can interact with prescribed medications. So even though certain nutrients play a vital role in building immunity, it is better to be taken from natural sources as nutrients work in harmony with each other rather than individually. In any case, it is important to consult his/her physician before taking any supplement”, he advised.