Eat right for Covid fight: Experts

When it comes to diet, diversity in diet is the magic bullet, says National Institute of Nutrition

By   |  Published: 15th May 2020  12:03 amUpdated: 15th May 2020  12:31 am

Hyderabad: Immunity has become a buzzword ever since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. With doctors, who have personally treated coronavirus positive patients, and public health officials making it clear that persons with strong immunity have a better chance to fight SARS-CoV-2 and also preventing Covid-19 infection, there’s a lot of stress around ways to improve body immunity.

The premier nutritional research institute from Hyderabad, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has said that when it comes to diet, diversity in the diet is the magic bullet. If you were to place all the foods that are to be consumed in a day in a plate, half the plate should be occupied with essentially four groups of foods including vegetables, green leafy vegetables, fruits and roots followed by cereals and millets, then pulses or flesh foods and nuts and oils, Director of NIN, Dr R Hemalatha said.

In the paper ‘Nutrition, Lifestyle and Immunity’ released in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, Dr R Hemalatha said that Vitamin A, E and D, C and B, minerals such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper and phytonutrients, amino acids, fatty acids are necessary to prevent establishment of viral infection and immune regulation i.e. to check uncontrolled proliferation of immune cells that may cause more harm than good to the body.

‘These nutrients are critical for the function of T cells, B cells, killer cells, macrophages, neutrophils/granulocytes that are involved in the killing and elimination of infectious microbes. In addition, there are many other immune related functions that are carried out by these nutrients and phytonutrients,’ Dr R Hemalatha in the paper said.

The researcher pointed out that it is prudent to obtain such nutrients through a balanced diet. “If these nutrients are taken in excess, then they can increase susceptibility to infections. A balanced diet is very important,” Dr Hemalatha said.

Turn to these traditional foods for better health

Role of vitamins and minerals in improving immunity

1. Vitamin A maintains structure and function of mucosal epithelial cells of respiratory tract and enhances mucosal immunity, critical for prevention of respiratory infection

2. Vitamin E, C, B, zinc, selenium act as potent antioxidants and reduce oxidative stress in the body

3. Vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients play crucial role in several metabolic pathways that aid in optimal immune function

4. Keep inflammation under control and prevent tissue damage and aid immune memory formation that helps prevent reinfection with same pathogen

Locally available food rich sources of Vitamins (A, C, D, E, etc.)

1. Papaya, guava, apple, grapes, mango, etc.: Rich in beta carotene (precursor of Vitamin A), Vitamin C, Potassium, B vitamins and folate

2. Oranges, tangerines, lemons, sweet lime, goose berries and red bell pepper: Good source of Vitamin C

3. Green leafy vegetables: Rich sources of beta carotene (precursor of Vitamin A), vitamins C, E, anti-oxidants and fibre

4. All seasonal vegetables and spices: Rich sources of multiple micronutrients and antioxidants

5. Curd is rich source of many nutrients, improves gut health by regulating gut bacteria; aids immune function and reduces inflammation

6. Legumes (chickpea, green gram, black gram, lentils and beans) provide many nutrients including iron and zinc

7. Millets: Good sources of multiple micronutrients and fibre

8. Flesh foods: Provide many nutrients including iron, zinc and essential amino acids

9. Fish: Rich source of protein, vitamin A, Vitamin E and essential fatty acids

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