Support your health with proper nutrition during self quarantine
Life has started moving at a “slow-mo” mode, people are no longer running around. We are spending more time with family and loved ones. We have started realizing how important they are in life. In our apartment, where about fifty families reside, all of them having children below 6 years of age, there’s a calm silence. Kids are happy that for the first time in their young lives they’re able to get undivided attention of their parents together. This pandemic has taught us to slow down and cope with it. I just realized that how much my children missed me over the past years. Spending more time with my kids, reading books with them, watching movies together, has helped me, as well as, I suppose, all parents at the present time, understand our children’s perspectives better.
Now from a nutritional outlook, there is currently no convincing evidence that any particular food or dietary pattern can ‘boost’ our immune system and prevent or treat COVID-19. However, to fight this pandemic, it is important to keep one’s immune system healthy because viruses tend to attack the weakest more easily. A well-functioning immune system is essential for overall well being. The system must be constantly alert, monitoring for signs of danger. Cells of the immune system should be capable of distinguishing and resisting the invasion of microorganisms and harmful substances. An “activated” immune system further increases the demand for energy during periods of infection. Optimal nutrition for the best immunological outcomes would be one, which supports proper functioning of immune cells ,allowing them to initiate not only adequate responses against pathogens but also to resolve the response rapidly when necessary and to avoid any underlying chronic inflammation.
When we talk about nutrition during self quarantine, a potential challenge lurking in the background, is that of binge eating. I feel, it is very easy for people to eat junk food when doing nothing or watching TV at home. So eating healthy foods is very important during this period, otherwise one would find out that it is so easy to gain a few pounds after weeks of lockdown. The silver lining in all of these is that, with the whole family around together, it might prove to be the best period to inculcate some healthy eating habits in your children.
There are several nutrients (copper, folate, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D) that play an important role in our immune system. A well balanced nutritious diet that includes whole grains, dairy and poultry products, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables allow us to get these nutrients through our food. The basic aim is to boost your immune system and herein, those age-old Granny’s tips have always proven to be true. As for example, a hot bowl of chicken and fresh veggies soup with ginger, garlic , pepper and little bit of butter added will help boost our immune system and also help recover from inflammatory conditions .
Eating right is a great start, and there are other things we can do to protect ourselves and our families. Variety is the key to proper nutrition. Eating just one kind of food won’t be enough to help fight off infections, even if you eat it constantly. Meals should be planned to include recommended portions of the following food groups:
Whole grains and legumes: Whole grains and legumes such oats, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, red beans, barley, non-peeled brown rice, corn, and wheat are the most important cereals and legumes that improves the immune system.
Dairy and Poultry products: Warm milk with turmeric is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against diseases. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B6. About 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken meat contains 40 to 50 percent of the daily recommended amount of B6. Vitamin B6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. It’s also vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity. Considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet, whole eggs pack a powerful combination of protein, beneficial fats and vitamins.
Meat and fish: Meat and fish have been the major sources of protein throughout evolution. They are a staple in the human diet, although vegetarian and vegan diets have become popular as well.
Nuts and oilseeds: These are one of the good fat sources available and also contain important micronutrients such as vitamin E. Vitamin E, is key to a healthy immune system. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts, such as almonds and seeds of sunflower, sesame are packed with the vitamin and also have healthy fats. A half-cup serving of shelled almonds, provides nearly 100 percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin E.
Vegetables and fruits: These should play a fundamental role at most meals. They are low in calories yet full of important micronutrients and fiber. Vegetables provide anti-inflammatory antioxidants, as well as key nutrients known to help the immune system function, including vitamins A and C, and folate. They also provide bioactive compounds that release a chemical signal that optimizes immunity in the gut, the location of 70-80% of immune cells. Fruit provides micronutrients and antioxidants that can help improve health. The more variety of colours on your plate, more will be their nutritional input. For example, citrus fruits, kiwi, papaya etc. and vegetables such as broccoli, bell pepper are good immune boosters. Therefore, squeezing lemon juice over your food or drinking lukewarm lime water helps prevent and recover from colds and restore one’s taste buds.
Spices: Garlic is found in almost every cuisine in the world. Early civilizations recognized its value in fighting infections. Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. A decoction prepared of boiled crushed garlic certainly helps cure cough. Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may also help decrease nausea. A cup of tea made of ginger, pepper and a few crushed basil leaves has always been our family’s magic way of curing sore throats and coughs. Turmeric, another spice ,has been shown to boost immune cell activity and enhance antibody responses. Combining turmeric with black pepper significantly ups curcumin bioavailability.
Beside eating balanced healthy food, we need to do some simple exercise, reduce stress, and get enough sleep to help enhance and improve immune system efficiency. And always keeping hydrated yourself is important. Children and elderly might have to take daily multivitamin and mineral supplements with proper medical advice.
WHO has published guidelines on nutrition during COVID- 19 self quarantine. Since it is based on scientific evidences, it is a good option to follow their webpage. In addition to healthy eating, being physically active, reducing stress and getting enough sleep will also help support normal immune functioning. Good hygiene practice, social distancing, and isolating those who are infected are the best-known ways to prevent infection. The whole world, for the first time in the history of humanity have united against a common enemy. Together we can and we shall overcome.
Medically reviewed by Moloya Gogoi, Assistant Professor , FSN,FHSc at