Building immunity and nutrition in the times of Coronavirus pandemic

May 13, 2020 4:21 PM

Vitamin D the ‘sunshine vitamin’ has several important functions. It is available in fatty fish, eggs and fortified foods like milk, cereals, etc

Dr. Anita Jatana, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, PANDEMIC COVID 19, Immunity, vitamin D, Vitamin CSimple ways of including proteins is pulses, beans, legumes, milk and milk products, nuts and oil seeds.

By Dr. Anita Jatana

Life was going smooth, though each one of us had our own battles and hurdles that we were fighting. And then came the PANDEMIC COVID 19. The entire world is in grip of it and all are paranoid with unanswered questioned of HOW, WHEN, WHERE and WHOM this virus is going to strike. Feeling insecure of the future both emotionally and financially is tough for all of us but is the need of the hour. So, let’s take it in our stride with positive thoughts to and win this battle together.

‘A healthy outside starts from the inside’ is one of my favourite sayings and something which I truly believe in, and that can be achieved with a few dos and don’ts. There is no single food which can help in building your immunity. You need to consume desired amount of all nutrients, water and eat a variety of foods within each food group to ensure adequate intake of important nutrients.

Proteins are one of the most critical nutrients supporting our immune system. We as Indians do tend to take less amount of proteins since majority of us are vegetarian. So simple ways of including proteins is pulses, beans, legumes, milk and milk products, nuts and oil seeds, eggs and nonvegetarian foods.

Vitamin C is not only a physiological antioxidant but also helps to regenerate other antioxidants within the body. Include vitamin C rich foods like -Amla, guava, oranges, lemon, tomato, bell peppers, green chilies.

Vitamin D the ‘sunshine vitamin’ has several important functions. Besides being important for bone health it is important in improving resistance to certain diseases and reduces depression. It is available in fatty fish, eggs and fortified foods like milk, cereals, etc. Getting a Sunlight exposure between 11am to 1 pm, for 20-30 minutes is a good way to ensure its availability.

Zinc deficiency can impact immune system. Natural sources of zinc are flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, black sesame seeds, whole legumes, dark chocolates, nuts.

Vitamin A is an important antioxidant nutrient that helps the body fight against infections. All dark green leafy vegetables, papaya, pumpkin, carrots, mango are good sources.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant vitamin and critical for the proper functioning of the immune system. Good sources of this vitamin are nuts like almonds, pistachio and seeds like sunflower seeds walnuts, flaxseeds, chia and sunflower seeds.

Iron, an important part of your blood and plays a vital role in helping the body fight infections. You can choose either non – vegetarian sources such as lean meat, fish, eggs or vegetarian sources like drumstick leaves, mint leaves, nuts to get your daily dose of iron. ‘To bust a common myth, beetroot and apples are not good sources of iron as it is commonly believed’. Other important micronutrients that can impact our immune system are Selenium, B6, B12, folate and Magnesium.

Indians are blessed to have herbs and condiments right in their kitchen and theses herbs & condiments like turmeric, tulsi, clove, garlic, ginger and cinnamon can play an important role in immunity building

Studies have shown that excess intake of foods rich in sugar, refined flour and saturated fats such as sweetened beverages, high fat baked foods, fried foods, alcohol has shown to have harmful impact on the immune system and hence should be avoided or consumed in moderation.

Along with balanced diet rich in above mentioned macro and micronutrients, it is also important to have a good sleep pattern, incorporate exercise in the daily routine and manage stress to stay active and healthy.

Always remember – Your health is in your hands, so plan your diet and lifestyle in such a way that supports your body in building immunity.

(The author is Chief Dietitian, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and Convenor Indian Dietetics. Views expressed are personal.)

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