COVID-19: Let’s Gear Up For The Long Haul

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Since this pandemic is unlikely to end anytime soon, it is critical to ensure that we continue to take all the precautions and build up our immunity through a healthy diet and lifestyle.

When the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic on March 11, it was a clarion call for countries to take drastic remedial action, and find ways and means to test and identify people infected with the deadly virus and prevent it from spreading.

COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people develop mild to moderate illness, and recover without hospitalization. Almost more than 80 per cent people have recovered due to the proper care given to them during the treatment. Some are even asymptomatic, so proper testing is needed.

The symptoms displayed by the COVID patients often vary from mild to severe. Some common symptoms of COVID are fever, dry cough, tiredness, coupled with less common ones such as, aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes. If a person complains of difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or loss of speech or movement, it clearly calls for an emergency action.

When a person begins to display such symptoms, a swab test needs to be done. Self- quarantine, proper medication, nutrition and strictly following other precautionary measures are essential to contain the spread of the virus any further.

Nutrition To Boost Immunity

Healthy diet is important for supporting immune systems. Not only are they needed to protect us from several diseases and ailments, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, but they also contribute to our long-term wellbeing.

Having diets comprising a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods every day, can do wonders to our body and its immune system. It is essential to consume fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins, especially those rich in vitamin A, C,D, and B complex; minerals, especially zinc, calcium, iron; dietary fibre, protein and antioxidants. Selenium-rich diet helps strengthen our lungs. It is found in abundance in grains, meat, garlic, etc.

Apart from consuming fruits and vegetables, having legumes such as lentils and beans are highly recommended, as they are rich in different nutrients, and are also easily available. Consuming nuts and whole grains, e.g, unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, brown rice, or starchy tubers or roots such as potato, yam, taro or cassava could also impart the essential nutrients that our body needs.

Foods rich in animal protein, such as meat, fish, eggs and milk are also highly required, as they are nutrient-dense and easily available. Adding probiotics like curd/ fermented foods to our diets helps in improvement of immunity as a recent study says.

For snacks, fresh fruits and high-protein small snacks are usually recommended over foods that are high in sugar, fat or salt. Dried beans, pulses and grains such as lentils, split peas, rice,
couscous or quinoa are also not only nutritious, but also are lip-smacking, affordable and pretty filling.

Rolled oats cooked with milk or water can be a healthy and a viable option for breakfast. It can be spiced up with yoghurt, chopped fruits or raisins. Children often need to eat a snack or two during the day to keep them going. Therefore, rather than feeding them with sweets or salty snacks, opt for healthier options like nuts, cheese, yoghurt (preferably unsweetened), chopped or dried fruits, boiled eggs, or other locally available healthy options.

Turmeric, black pepper, garlic, ginger, giloy, ashwagandha, tulsi leaves are highly beneficial and are loaded with a number of medicinal properties. Several spices and condiments have anti-inflammatory properties and benefits to boost our immunity. Consuming them on a daily basis can prevent us from contracting any infection.

Ensuring Hygiene: At present, there is no substantial evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). But, however, there is a likelihood that people can get infected by coming into a direct contact with a surface, or object that is contaminated.

Touching face frequently can increase the chances of coming in contact with the virus.

The higher risk though, comes from being in close contact with other people and not maintaing adequate distance while shopping. As always, good hygiene is important while handling food to prevent any food-borne illnesses.

Unnecessary packaging should be removed and disposed into a waste bin with a lid. Packed items such as cans should be cleaned with disinfectants before being opened and stored. Hands should bewashed regularly with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. Using alcohol-based sanitizers to clean hands frequently is also essential during these days.

Fruits and vegetables must be thoroughly washed under running water to prevent them from coming in contact with infections.

(The author is a lifestyle coach and diet counsellor. She tweets @Bipasha1sugati)

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