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Can Food Boost Your Covid-19 Recovery? Nutrition Expert Pooja Manoj Weighs In

khushboo sharmakhushboo sharma  |  May 3, 2021
Can Food Boost Your Covid-19 Recovery? Nutrition Expert Pooja Manoj Weighs In

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A robust immune system stands as your first line of defense against the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis. It has been a year since we were last told to work on our immunity to fight the pandemic. Remember the phase back in March-April 2020 when we were going all out on the “immunity-booster” kadhas and lemon teas? Sadly, it takes more than just a hot cuppa tea to get your immunity going. Also, “boosting” immunity is the last thing that you want to do to yourself right now. Yes, for real!

In a recent chat with POPxo, Dietician and Fitness Consultant Pooja Manoj helped us understand the basics of working on our immunity through proper nutrition. During the chat, she also explained why “immunity-boosting” is way different from “immunity optimisation” and why the latter should be our goal right now. Here is a lowdown for you all:

Food & Eating Habits That Hamper Our Immunity

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Stocked on your favourite chips and chocolates to “prepare” for the lockdown? We have bad news fam–these foods are actively messing with your immunity! Intrigued to find out what other food and eating habits might be making things worse for you right now? According to Pooja here are some food and eating habits that you should do away from ASAP. 

-Eating too much salt, sugar, and oils. 

-Consuming colas, sweets, chocolates, wafers, biscuits, and market made cookies

-Eating deep-fried food

-Having packaged and synthetic juices 

-Having trans fats (mostly found in packaged foods)

-Consuming vegetable oils, dalda, and margarine 

-Eating refined flours like maida

Food Habits You Should Adopt To Optimise Immunity

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According to Pooja, immunity building through nutrition and food is not a short-term process. It takes time and discipline. That said, it is high time that we start the process. Think of it this way: had you started working on your diet and nutrition last year, you would have had a stronger immune system by now. 

Now, while everyone has been talking about “boosting” our immunities right now, it’s “optimising” the immunity that we really need. As Pooja explains, “If our immune system is boosting then it means that it is producing inflammation” and thus immunity optimisation should be your aim right now.” According to her, a well-balanced diet is what you need to support your immune system. As she explains, “when preparing a meal make sure that it has a portion of all the essential food groups which include carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, fats, and fruits and vegetables.” Here is everything that you need to focus on while working on your nutrition:

Focus On Fruits & Vegetables

Pooja explains, “If we take an 8-inch plate, make sure that half of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. In a day, you should be eating around half a kg of fruits and vegetables.” She also recommends that you focus on green leafy vegetables as well as both starchy and nonstarchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables include the ones that grow above the ground like okra, gourd varieties, capsicum, and tomato (even though it is classified as a fruit). In a starchy category, you need to focus on vegetables that grow under the ground like potato, sweet potato, carrots, beetroots. Also, focus on citrus fruits that are rich in vitamin C like orange, line, etc. 

Proteins

Proteins are integral to a robust immune system and you can explore a variety of lean meat, fish, and egg to fulfill your daily needs. Vegetarians can explore low-fat dairy products, thick daals, soybean, paneer, etc. “Don’t forget the curd which is probiotic and improves the metabolic health which is very important for optimising immunity,” adds Pooja. 

Add Fibre To Your Diet

Whole grains like oats and millets, nuts, berries, etc. are rich in fibre and thus need to be a part of your everyday diet. Pooja explains, “Fibre-rich food optimises gut health which again is associated with good immunity.” 

Supplements

“While there is no scientific evidence that supports the need for supplements for healthy people, you can consider them if you are deficient. You can go for a multivitamin like Zincovit that has all the essential vitamins,” shares Pooja. 

Nutrition Tips For COVID-19 Patients

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While many lose their appetite during a COVID-19 infection, some also lose their sense of taste and smell. However, it is important that you eat properly and take in all the required nutrients. As experts suggest, the first six days of the infection are crucial and decide a lot about how you are going to fare in the second cycle (day 6-Day 12). Thus, it is important to give your body the nutritional support that it recovers right after you develop symptoms. 

Here are few tips that you can keep in mind:

-No matter what, don’t miss out on your fruits and nuts. 

-If you have lost appetite, you can have a nutrient-packed smoothie or a vegetable soup ‘coz it would be easier for you to drink. 

-Include curd, skimmed milk, green leafy veggies, chicken soup, egg, etc. in your meals.  

-Avoid eating a lot of simple carbohydrates in case you are experiencing oxygen difficulties ‘coz carbohydrates require more oxygen to be processed and digested. 

-Eat frequent meals because there will be a lot of digestive issues including gastritis, bloating and taste or smell problems as well. Thus, try eating 6-7 small meals instead of going for three big meals.

-Add a variety of colours and textures to your meals if you have lost taste and smell. 

-Try adding aromatic spices like cinnamon, peppers, garlic, ajwain, asafoetida to your meals.

-Try smelling a charred lime or orange and also biting into its flesh in case you have lost taste.   

Easy Meals That You Can Consider During The Infection

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When preparing a meal, “Make sure that you are combining a carbohydrate portion, a protein portion, and a vegetable and fruit portion.” Here are some meals that you can try: 

-Oats porridge with nuts, seeds, and fruits 

-Khichdi with rice, dal, and veggies or have it with curd.

-Eggs with bread and veggies 

-A peanut butter or almond butter toast

-Chapati with dal and salad

Do We Need A Post COVID-19 Detox?

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Were you told to go for detox smoothies and drinks after the COVID-19 infection? I was and all I can say is that it made me weak and definitely did not go well. In fact, as it turns out I did not even need to do it in the first place. As Pooja says,  “You already are detoxing as long as you have a liver, skin, and kidney!’

However, she recommends that you continue eating healthy, avoid junk, and work out after recovering from the virus. She explains,”Exercise produces minor damages at the cellular level which ultimately optimises immunity by instructing you body to keep working on its repair functions.”

Remember that immunity is not made overnight. It is a continuous process and the sooner you start the better it is. 

Featured Image Courtesy: Pooja Manoj