New Delhi: The importance of nutrition in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is paramount. While nutrition is important to boost the immune system in order to protect against the dangers of COVID-19, it also plays a crucial role to bounce back after recovering from the disease. Banega Swasth India team conducted a Facebook Live session with Clinical Nutritionist Lovneet Batra where she discussed the role of nutrition post COVID recovery and what food items can help with the same.
NDTV: It is said that protein intake of those who have recovered from COVID should be increased. Is it needed to change the diet after COVID recovery?
Lovneet Batra: This is a very common question, you don’t need to be on a high protein diet, you need a regular 50-65 gm of protein. Many Indians are deficient of protein and after any viral disease, due to your metabolism, there may be protein loss. So you need to intake 70 gm of protein in a day. Many people when they eat a lot of protein in their diets, like non-vegetarians, you might end up 120 -130 gm of protein, so that isn’t going to help you. The number to ensure is 70 gm. A lot of people ask me how they can meet this number, and the answer is through a balanced diet.
If you are vegetarian, you need 3 servings dal, chana or rajma per day. If you think that is a lot, you can consume dal in breakfast in the form of daal Cheela, or in any other form of dal. Take one serving or about 200 gm of curd or yogurt in your breakfast. Yogurt is also a very good probiotic which helps your immune system to bounce back.
Vegetarians should focus on complete protein because many times they aren’t able to consume complete protein. Complete protein means that your meal combination should be complete – Dal and Rice is a complete protein diet, Daal and Daliya is a complete protein diet. Include 100 gm of paneer in your day, so you can get 20-22 gm of protein in one go. If you are having 3 servings of dal, 1 serving of yogurt, 100 gm of paneer, 2 servings of rajma, millets like Raagi, Jawar and Bajra; then you are sorted.
If you are a non vegetarian, you need a meal that includes grilled chicken or fish or chicken tikka, you can consume 30-40 gm protein in a single meal.
So, my point is that rather than over thinking about protein post COVID, focus on a balance diet. In fact, in COVID our body fights inflammation, it is a big problem during and post COVID. Also, fats have an anti-inflammation effect, so make sure you include healthy fats in your diet. Your fat requirement is up by 50-60 gm post COVID, and these have to be healthy fat. I don’t mean refined vegetable oil, I mean good quality nuts and seeds, have 10-12 soaked almonds, nuts, walnuts, table spoon or flax seeds or pumpkin seeds, coconut; so try toad these healthy fats in your diet to fight inflammation.
A lot of people feel fatigue and tired, and for them carbs are equally important. You need about 120-130 gm of carbs in a day, so get it through hand pounded rice, Dalia, Roti, Sattu, Upma, Idli, these whole grains help with fatigue. Our focus has to be a balanced diet and not just a macronutrient.
NDTV: A lot of people have started taking minerals, multivitamins, zinc tablets on their own. What is your take on these supplements?
Lovneet Batra: Don’t self prescribe these supplements, please. I know it is very tempting, and we may think if we take more supplements, it will help more, but it can backfire. So please consult your doctor, a nutrition expert, who can give you the right advice because this has to depend upon your blood test in optimum level.
NDTV: In such a humid weather, during monsoon, what changes should be made to the diet, considering COVID-19?
Lovneet Batra: In monsoon our digestive system becomes weak. So, one should take easy to digest food. Be it Khichdi, be it Moong dal – rice, Egg-Roti, Egg-Rice, simple and easy to digest combination. In this season, please avoid a lot of salads, because this isn’t the season to have raw greens. You should cook it and have it. And you need to have easy to digest food, because this is the time to give your digestive system rest.
Also, I feel that during monsoon, it is the best to include the seasonal fruit in you diet like jamun, plums. Try to include pomegranate in your diet, which is anti inflammatory.
NDTV: Due to COVID, our movement has been restricted, now that things are opening up gradually, people have started stepping out. In such a time, people are also resuming their work out. After recovering from COVID, when should people start their work out, be it gym, swimming or yoga?
Lovneet Batra: Be very careful with workouts. Take it very slowly, this depends upon person to person, and you need to do a simple walk test. Put a timer for 6 minutes, if you are able to walk 500 meters in these 6 minutes without getting very exhausted, then you are ready for slowly going back to your workout. But if you are unable to do so, then you are not ready. Take your time and focus on breathing exercises, relaxation and better sleep quality, because you can still wait before going back to heavy workouts.
NDTV: After getting vaccinated, how much time should you give before resuming your workout?
Lovneet Batra: There is no such link if you don’t have the infection. After vaccination, just give yourself 2-3 days and once you feel up to it, and you have not had COVID in your past, then you can go ahead with your work out. Workouts are very personal, so depending upon how fit you are and your fitness journey, you will decide at what intensity you can work out. Don’t go by others, if you are going to the gym then just take it slowly because during lockdown, many of us have our fitness levels compromised. Those who could work out very easily before COVID, they have too lost the stamina because of the lockdown. Give yourself the time and start slowly. One day at a time.
NDTV: When we talk aerosols and COVID, open spaces are being encouraged. In such a time, if someone is working in open space or public park, should they wear a mask during the work out or not?
Lovneet Batra: This depends upon if you are in a public place. I would say if there are people around you, you must follow the COVID protocols. Wear a comfortable mask, because when there are people around you it’s better to stay safe and wear a mask.
NDTV: When we talk about preventing and staying safe from COVID, what kind of diet should we be taking to ensure our immunity and our respiratory system are strong.
Lovneet Batra: When it comes to immunity, just like fitness, we can’t build it overnight. I wish I could give a list of food to eat and say it will protect you from COVID, but there is none. Balanced meals are very important, sleeping well and a good quality sleep is very important, we are all under a lot of stress, which doesn’t help our immunity, so try to destress, by yoga or talking to friends. Stay close to your loved ones. We ignored these very important factors that make us stronger. Focus on meal combinations I mentioned earlier.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.