Diet – Our First Defence
Food is more than just about its taste; it is a powerhouse of biochemical ingredients which impact specific cells and functions in our bodies.
Each cell in our body is a factory where multiple reactions are taking place. Food is the fuel for these factories, good quality food nurtures them whereas poor quality fuel causes damage, which over a period becomes irreversible.
Research has shown that the immune system is affected by the body’s nutritional status, and that nutritionally deficient people are more susceptible to viral infections. Further their ability to fight the infection is lower. The best way to maintain good nutritions is to eat a nutrient dense, whole food plant-based diet.
While it is too soon for us to pinpoint a food, which is specifically effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we have research on the relationship between micronutrients and viral infections. Deficiency of some nutrients like Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Selenium change the way a virus behaves on entering our body for some infections and change the effect the virus can have on our body. Vitamin D also is important for immunity. Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants which also have an impact on our immune system.
Practically this means we should eat a variety of foods specially vegetables, fruits, and some spices.
Count your calories and manage portions.
Hydrate – apart from regular water, try infused water, herbal teas, green tea, lemonade, coconut water.
Say NO to sugary drinks.
Do not drink your fruits, eat them.
Eat a rainbow diet using these food groups
Green vegetables. These are superfoods, nutrient dense vegetables. They are good sources of Calcium, folate, Iron, and many phytonutrients like Apigenin. Fibre in greens keeps the gut bacteria happy. Spinach, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, beet greens are some vegetables to be taken regularly. Add them to salads, smoothies, main dish or just have them on the side.
Mushrooms are great for immunity. They are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, such as polysaccharides, phenolic and indole compounds, Mycosteroids, fatty acids, carotenoids. There are endless ways to add them to meals, from soups, starters and as a part of a main dish. The other benefit – they are low in calories.
Onions and garlic. These vegetables have many bioactive compounds which are anti-inflammatory, and some have antiviral properties. These vegetables are rich in phytochemicals like Quercetin and organosulfur compounds, which help in fighting some viral infections. They are good for gut bacteria as they have fibre too. They can be used daily and extensively used in Indian diets. However frying or prolonged cooking decreases the nutritional and beneficial effect of these.
Fruits such as apples (with peels), berries, black grapes, apricots, orange, cherries improve our immunity. Have 2-3 servings daily, as dessert, add to smoothies, cereal or salads. If fresh is not available, frozen can be used. Avoid canned fruit in syrup though.
Broccoli, beet root, sweet potatoes also help with fighting infections.
Beans and lentils are good sources of amino acids, the building blocks of protein and fibre. Fibre is food for gut bacteria and helps the good bacteria flourish. Since the gut is a significant part of our immune system, a daily intake of lentils and beans is essential. Sprout them for additional dose of vitamins. Take them as a curry, add to salads, spread like hummus/bean paste.
More on food next time…