- Limit consumption of highly processed food: Experts
- As per experts, plant-based diets are higher in essential micronutrients
- Flavonoids in fruits and vegetables have antiviral capabilities: Experts
New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that proper nutrition and hydration are vital to be healthy with strong immune systems to lower risk of chronic illnesses and infections at a time like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Varda Mehrotra, Executive Director of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO)- an association of all animal protection organisations across the country, plant-based diet can provide the essential nutrition required to boost the body’s resistance against invading pathogens.
With an aim to encourage people to adopt a plant-based diet, FIAPO has urged the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) to combine plant-based diets with its recommendation under the ‘Eat Right India’- a campaign of Government of to improve public health and nutrition. It has urged FSSAI to promote plant-based food as an immunity builder and to seek food hygiene during coronavirus disease pandemic.
Make Food A Priority To Strengthen Immunity: Experts
Ms. Mehrotra asserted that several researches have shown that plant based-diets are usually higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron and phytochemicals. The plant-based food tends to have lower calories, saturated fats and cholesterol, she said. According to medical experts, saturated fats and cholesterol are the reasons for the majority of life-threatening disorders in human beings.
In her letter to FSSAI urging to promote plant-based diets, Ms. Mehrotra highlighted that COVID-19 poses a serious threat to people with low immunity and one of the major ways to deal with COVID-19 is by boosting immunity. She said,
Green foods are vital against novel coronavirus by improving the immunity of all age groups and hence should be promoted by FSSAI. One of the most important components of the immune system is the T cells also called T lymphocytes. T-cells play an essential role in supporting our immune system and are responsible for defending our body against invading pathogens that could cause diseases and illnesses. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids. Flavonoids are found in fruits, vegetables, and grains, and possess antiviral capabilities. They can also stimulate the activities of certain immune cells, including T- cells. Thus, in these days of a pandemic, it is important that we consume healthy foods and strengthen our immune system to give a strong immune response to fight infections and ward off diseases.
While emphasising on making food a priority for boosting immunity, Basanta Kumar Kar, an expert on nutrition and recipient of Global Nutrition Leadership Award said that consuming a healthy diet that is rich in micronutrients is can help individuals make improvements in their health. This is because food that is rich in nutrition has capabilities to fight anaemia, gut problems, high cholesterol, excessive weight gain and obesity, cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD) and mortality risks. He said that these underlying conditions and co-morbidities are a major cause of mortality during the current COVID-19 crisis. Mr. Kar added,
Around 53 per cent of women in the age group 15-49 years are anaemic, as per the fourth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-IV) and more than 60 per cent children from 12-23 months of age are anaemic, as per the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS 2016-18). Research studies suggest that infection/inflammation, iron deficiency, micronutrient deficiencies such as copper, zinc, Vitamins A, B12, C, riboflavin, folate, and some of the genetic factors like sickle cell anaemia contribute to overall anaemia prevalence. These deficiencies can be addressed by eating foods with rich micronutrients like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, avocado, coconut oils, and whole grains like unprocessed wheat, maize, millet, oats, brown rice and others.
Dr. Jagmeet Madan, National President Of Indian Dietetic Association, on the other hand, says that in regard to specially COVID-19, there is a lack of concrete evidence regarding specific dietary factors that can reduce risk of COVID-19, but asserts that it is a known fact that a healthy immune system plays a vital role in defending our body against diseases.