‘Nutritious food can ensure best response to vaccine’ | Hyderabad News


Q. As an eggetarian and lactose intolerant (I can eat cheese but not milk or curd) person, what diet would you suggest to keep my protein intake good? Can I supplement my vitamin intake with any tablets or drinks? — Sharath R
A. Yes, eggs and milk provide all the nine essential amino acids (EAA). One whole egg is equal to 30g of lean meat, poultry or fish. But one egg can provide only 12% of the daily requirement of protein along with many other nutrients (vitamins and minerals). As for cheese, it is high in protein, as well as vitamins A, D, E, B12, and calcium. If you enjoy cheese, you can continue taking cheese as it is a good source of quality proteins and other nutrients. In case of a vegetarian diet, although certain EAAs are lower and some of them are not available in individual food groups of vegetarian foods, a well-balanced diet consisting foods from different food groups will mutually complement each other and supplement all the required EAA. Digestibility of amino acids is another challenge in veg foods that varies widely for different food groups and ranges from 75-85%. However, this is compensated by the presence of higher quantity of overall protein consumption from plant-based diets (vegetarian diets). A balanced vegetarian diet for a moderately active man provides about 80 gm protein/day. This translates (adjusting for digestibility) to approximately 60 gm of quality protein meeting the requirements of all EAAs. The estimated average requirement (EAR) of protein of an adult man is only 43 gm/d (0.66 grams/kg body weight /day) and the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 54 gm/d (0.88 grams/kg body weight /day), which can be easily met from a balanced vegetarian diet. Hence vegetarians need not worry about protein inadequacy if they are on a healthy diet with an adequate intake of pulses, beans, legumes, peas and nuts etc. Further vegetarian foods have certain other bio-active components which confer other health benefits. Also, there is no need for supplements if one is on a healthy balanced diet with adequate physical activity. For proportions of different food groups to consume to maintain good health, our institute has recommended “My plate for the day”, which can be accessed at: https://www.nin.res.in/downloads/My_plate_for_the_day.pdf
Q. I am 76-years-old and had suffered from Covid-19/pneumonia in January. Though I have recovered now, I’m also borderline diabetic. Please suggest a suitable diet for me to boost immunity. — Raghuram B
A. In general, the nutritional requirements of older adults are more or less similar to that of the general adult population. However, some nutrients need special requirements among the older population because of age-related physical and physiological changes. For the sedentary elderly man and woman weighing 65kg and 55kg the energy requirements are 1700 Kcal and 1500 Kcal respectively (as per ICMR-NIN, RDA, 2020). Though the energy requirement is reduced in old age, the requirements of other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals remain the same; and the requirements of some of the nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium are increased to improve bone density. The elderly are, therefore, encouraged to consume nutrient-dense foods such as nuts, oilseeds, fruits, vegetables, legumes and moderate amounts of animal source foods to meet the daily requirements of vitamins and minerals and to prevent micronutrient deficiency.
Immune cells require many micronutrients – minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, bioactive compounds for optimal function. Hence for good Immune response: Ensure substantial servings of fresh fruits (100g/day) and vegetables (300g/day), prefer whole grains and include nuts in your daily diet. Avoid consumption of highly processed foods, avoid fruit juices and carbonated drinks – these are high in calories (energy) and poor in nutrients. There are known as empty calories, which impairs immune function. Thoroughly cooked meat/poultry may be included in moderation. If vegetarian – include legumes, beans, nuts, mushrooms to meet the required protein and micro-nutrients.
Avoid too much fat (no more than 30 gm/person/day; preferably 2-3 varieties of oils), salt (
Keep your body hydrated with adequate water intake for good immune response to infections. Exposure to sunlight for at least 20 to 30 minutes per day, preferably around 11 in the morning will ensure vitamin D status. Smoking and alcohol adversely affect immunity and increase the risk and severity of infections and hence must be avoided.
Q. There are a lot of myths around food these days. Though it is summer, many suggest avoiding cold drinks, ice-creams and cold fruit juices given the risk of a second Covid wave. Do you think it’s necessary? — Parimala G Tadas
A. Yes, in general, it’s good to avoid these things during any season. These foods are only refined sugars (also fats in ice creams), which are calorie dense and lack nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients. Calorie dense, nutrient poor diets impair immune response. For example: Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytonutrients that are high in fresh fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts, and whole grains play a crucial role in several metabolic pathways that aid in optimal immune function and appropriate response to the vaccine. They also keep inflammation under control. Ensure substantial servings of fresh fruits and vegetables (as much as 450 to 500gm per day per person) and prefer whole grains for optimal immune function.
Q. I am 60 years and post the pandemic, I have been losing weight consistently and becoming weak day by day, despite eating all meals. I am also diabetic and insulin-dependent. What supplements can I take to build immunity and strength? — Syed Mubbesher Mehdi
A. Losing weight without any conscious effort from your side is a warning signal that you need to consult a physician immediately.
Q. Since both of us are working, it sometimes gets impossible to cook every day and we resort to ordering in. Many say we should avoid it, especially with Covid. What are your thoughts? How much outside food is permissible? — Pankaj Kumar
A. Whether you prepare at home or order from outside it depends on what you prepare or order and eat. Every meal should be ideally accompanied with vegetables to obtain 350 g of recommended veggies/day. A balanced/ healthy diet -should provide minimum 500 g vegetables and fruits, 20 to 30 g nuts and 200 to 300 ml milk/day (preferably in the form of curd or butter milk). Three cups of rice should be accompanied with one cup thick dal. And 50 % of your cereals may be from whole grains including millets. Whole grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds are complex carbohydrates that are nutrient-packed and rich in fiber – go ahead if you can get these by ordering! Depending on your activity level and body weight you may require only 1600 to 2000kcal/day (table below). Be aware that you may get almost your total calories required for a day from just one full fried rice/biryani, restaurant curries, or a big burger. These can be very high in calories as they add a lot of fat and use refined cereals with little or no vegetables.
If you order healthy diets that contain a good proportion of all food groups prepared from fresh foods, contain no sugar, are limited in salt and fats/oils- it should not be an issue to your health. But as for the COVID issue- take all necessary precautions.
Q. Apart from diabetes, I have also been prescribed mild medication for hypertension and cholesterol control. With medication, all the parameters of health are under control but I am concerned that I am susceptible to infections. Is it true? How can I take care of myself during this pandemic? — Srinivasa Rao Nandula
A. It’s good that your sugar is under control and blood pressure is maintained. People with poorly controlled diabetes are likely to be at higher risk of infections and complications. You may not be at higher risk as all parameters are under control. Nevertheless, like every one, you must also follow hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing a mask. As mentioned above include adequate quantities of healthy foods in your diet.
Q. I am a housewife and regularly use mustard oil for cooking. I read somewhere that oil should be changed or mixed. Can you suggest the right mix and how does it help in deriving nutrition? — Sumitra Ghosh
A. Each vegetable oil has a unique fatty acid composition and minor components. Complete dependence on just one vegetable oil does not ensure optimal intake of all the fatty acids. Hence ICMR-NIN recommends use of two or more vegetable oils for optimal health benefits. By selecting two or more vegetable oils, not only the fatty acid balance is maintained but one also gets the benefit of minor components present. Use two or more varieties of vegetable oils in a day or you can change oils on a weekly basis to obtain the benefits of other vegetable oils.
Q. What is a healthy breakfast? Is it a mix of vegetables and fruits with milk or a plate of Idlis and a bowl of curd sufficient? — Gopinath N
A. Ether should be fine, as long as you source your nutrients in a day are from different food groups — as mentioned below in the table. Ideally, energy from breakfast should not be more than 20% of total daily energy, i.e., equivalent to 400 kcal for a 2000-kcal diet. Make sure that you get calories, protein, fats, and micronutrients from diverse food groups (8 food groups) to ensure adequate intake of all nutrients.
Q. When is the ideal time to have fruits? If I have fruits after 3 pm I immediately have acidity issues? So, should I restrict them only in the morning? And since I have issues with acidity, what fruits should I avoid? — Shruthi Reddy
A. You can eat fruits any time in a day, but ideally, if you consume fruits along with a meal it may improve micronutrient absorption- a study from our institute showed that consuming guava with meals increased iron absorption and improved hemoglobin status of children. Taking fruits along with meals will also reduce chances of acidity. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and limes and pineapples must be avoided on an empty stomach to prevent acidity.
Q. What is the right temperature for storing cooked food in a refrigerator? And how long can I keep in the refrigerator and consume as we are both working and we can’t cook every day. Please suggest? — Pranesh Raj
A. Cooked food should be refrigerated within two hours if one does not intend to consume within 4 to 5 hours of preparation. Our recent studies show that cooked food can stay safe up to 6 hours at room temperature and can be used up to 4 days if stored in refrigerators, which is ideally maintained at 40C. Storing food at this temperature will reduce the pace of multiplication of bacteria. Our studies show that while storing foods in refrigerators, some simple measures need to be followed – store raw and cooked foods separately to prevent contamination of microbes from raw to cooked foods. Do not thaw or reheat again and again – this will decrease nutrient contents considerably. Hence, it is suggested to store cooked food in separate small portions so that only the required amount/portion can be taken out and reheated thoroughly before consumption.


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