Good nutrition is very important before, during and after an infection. While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent the onset of the deadly Coronavirus, maintaining a healthy diet is essential to make your immune system battle-ready. Remember that even in mild/quick recovery cases, the potential after-effects, which can be long-term, require good reserves of energy, proteins, vitamins and minerals. These help speed up the recovery process and trigger the immune response back to form.
Unfortunately, a huge setback during and post the infection is the loss of smell and/or taste which hugely affects the patient’s appetite. The heavy dosage of medication prescribed can also cause a lot of nausea and food aversions. So it is essential that whatever little one is able to consume should be dense in nutrition and energy and should ideally tap into every food group.
I am a firm believer that how you kickstart your day sets the pace for the rest of the day. The first few things you consume on waking should be a boost of antioxidants, immunity boosters and rich in natural supplementation. After the Covid patient has completed their prescribed medication and quarantine period, I start their day with 2 small Kashmiri garlic pods, followed by a 30ml amla-and-aloevera juice shot, followed by a jeera ajwain water/methi daana water/barley water/cinnamon water (which of these depends on the patient’s pre-existing medical conditions and needs). Step 4 in the morning routine: 5 almonds, 2 full walnuts, 1 fig/date/prune. And round it up with a seasonal fruit. Since appetite levels are suppressed, usually the first five morning routine steps keep my patients going for the first 2-3 hours of their day.
Thereafter, breakfast should include an oat bran cereal with almond milk; add jaggery and a teaspoon of flaxseed for a wholesome bowl. An alternative that is rich in protein and good fat is one full egg along with a few egg-whites and half an avocado.
For hydration and to keep the gut cool, I include a coconut water concoction mid-morning: soak sabjaor (basil) and chia seeds along with mint leaves in fresh coconut water.
Lunch is the meal where I tap into every food group. Carbohydrates are essential to get energy levels back and could be consumed in the form of wheat/millets/oats/brown rice/sweet potato. For protein, it’s pulses/legumes/lean meat/fish as their essential amino acids guard one against harmful diseases. Add 1-2 seasonal vegetables playing the role of your protective foods that are rich in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
As a first filler between lunch and dinner, I prescribe a seasonal fruit rich in Vitamin C. For example, grapefruit/orange/kiwi.
Our Indian home food is naturally rich in herbs and spices that have high immune-boosting properties. Filler 2 is herbal drinks like kada/turmeric milk/ginger tea. However it is extremely important to not overdose on kada; all herbs aren’t for everyone. In this weather, kada/heat-inducing concoctions can cause gastric issues, heat rashes, acne, boils and could aggravate any existing allergies like urticaria or rosacea.
Moving onto the last meal of the day, I prefer prescribing a meal that’s high-protein along with complex carbs for a balanced dinner. Examples: bone broth soup/moringa soup/eggs/grilled fish/sweet potato, broccoli cutlets along with Indian seasonal sabzis or vegetables. Dinner should end 3-4 hours before bed time.
To support absorption of all nutrients at its peak, it’s best to avoid all processed, packaged, preserved foods, deep fried snacks, cookies, bakery items, caffeine, sodas, sweetened fruit juices, junk food, alcohol consumption and smoking.
8 hours of sound sleep, managing stress levels and remaining hydrated at all times is essential for quick recuperation and a speedy recovery.
(Tahira Kochhar is Delhi’s leading Therapeutic Nutritionist. Her Instagram handle is @tahirakochar)
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