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Food Rich In Protein, Micronutrients And Hydration Are Key In COVID-19 Recovery, Say Experts

According to experts, a protein-rich diet can help repair the damaged body tissues and muscle loss due to the COVID-19 infection

Coronavirus And Nutrition: Food Rich In Protein, Micronutrients And Hydration Are Key In COVID-19 Recovery, Say Experts
Highlights
  • Eat small, eat frequently, eat smart while recovering from COVID-19: Expert
  • People with co-morbidities must consult doctor and manage their condition
  • Awareness and practice of proper nutrition can help recover faster: Experts

New Delhi: For patients fighting COVID-19, the battle may differ from person to person based on the symptoms being experienced by them. While some may be asymptomatic, some may have slight fever and cough, some may even suffer loss of their sense of smell and taste and others may suffer more severe symptom like difficulty in breathing and lack of oxygen in the body. According to Dr K K Aggarwal, President of the Confederation of Medical Associations, Asia and Oceania (CMAAO), when a person suffers any infection, the body fights it in three phases- the acute phase which is marked with high fever, stable phase where the body starts winning the battle and the recovery phase. The energy requirement of the body changes in each of the phase. During the acute phase, the patient suffers a loss of appetite and fatigue as the body fight the infection and uses up the stored energy from lean muscle mass. Dr. Aggarwal added that lack of proper nutrition support can lead to decreased energy which further complicates recovery. NDTV spoke with nutrition experts Dr. Jagmeet Madan, National President, Indian Dietetic Association and Dr. Shweta Khandelwal, Head- Nutrition Research, Public Health Foundation of India to learn about foods that COVID-19 patients should consume in order to recover faster from the infection.

Also Read: Poshan Maah 2020: What Has Been The Impact Of COVID-19 Pandemic On India’s Malnutrition Targets

Dr. Khandelwal said that when the body is under COVID-19 attack, optimal nutrition is required which is a combination of macronutrients like carbohydrates and proteins and micronutrients like minerals and vitamins. Dr. Madan said,

Good nutrition is critical at a time when immune system has taken a beating and is in a weaker state than before. There are plenty of studies that have provided evidence to suggest that what you eat and drink during the infection will play a huge role in determining how quickly you are able to get back on your feet. While fighting COVID-19, remember, eat small portions of nutrient-rich diet as frequently as every two hours and drink fluids after every hour.

The following are the most important things that need to be included in a COVID-19 patient’s diet to meet their nutritional needs during recovery.

Protein

According to both experts, Protein intake remains important through all phases during an illness to protect the body against muscle loss and to repair the damage done to the muscles and tissues. Protein, according to Dr. Khandelwal, boosts the immune system too. Protein also provides energy to help a patient overcome post-COVID weakness. Dr. Madan recommends COVID-19 patients to include a portion of protein-rich foods like pulses, legumes, curd, peanuts or any other food that has high protein in each meal. She suggests eating at least 75 grams of protein per day.

Carbohydrates And Fats

Carbohydrates are also extremely important for recovering, say experts. However, they emphasise on recognising what can help the patient and what may add to their discomfort. For example, patients with breathing problems should not have carbohydrates like bread, cereals and pasta and must intake healthy fats like nuts to help making breathing a little easier for them.

Micro-Nutrients

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great source of micro-nutrients like antioxidants, folate, vitamins and minerals. Dr. Madan suggests including all kinds of fruits and vegetables that are nutrient-rich like pineapples, apples, bananas, kiwis, gourd, leafy greens and others. A precaution that needs to be followed is to avoid giving raw food to the patient. Dr. Madan said,

Raw food may add to the possibility of another infection getting into the body. An adequate amount of heat treatment is important for the food given to the patient to make it microbiologically safe.

Dr. Madan also suggests taking some supplements for meeting nutrient needs of the body while recovering since the total appetite of the patient is less. She recommends taking B-complex supplements and Vitamin C. She also suggests, consulting the doctor or the medical team supervising the patient about taking Vitamin D supplements.

Fibre

According to Dr. Madan, the gut is an area where the immune system thrives and so it is important to keep the healthy gut bacteria thriving. Probiotics such as curd can support healthy gut. She also recommends consuming dietary fibre that can be found in large quantities in fresh fruits and vegetables for a healthy stomach.

Fluids

Both the experts emphasise on drinking plenty of fluids during the illness and post COVID recovery. Dr. Madan said,

Staying hydrated is vital for fighting the infection. Along with drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day, the patient must include other fluids like buttermilk and coconut water for hydration.

She also suggests including herbal teas, soups and vegetable stew in the patient’s diet.

Also Read: National Nutrition Month: Benefits Of Eating Locally Produced Nutritious Foods At Complementary Feeding Stage

The experts say that for COVID-19 patient to recover faster, it is important that the food prepared for them is made by combining multiple nutrients. They emphasise on feeding only what the patient is able to tolerate during different stages of recovery instead of sticking to a strict regimen. This is because a sick person usually has poor appetite because of the impact of the infection on metabolism, said Dr. Madan.

While talking about nutrition for such COVID-19 patients who are also suffering from pre-existing morbid conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and lung disease among others or are in the older age groups and especially vulnerable to having serious symptoms like organ failures due to COVID-19, experts call for taking extra precautions. Dr. Madan recommends that patients with co-morbidities must take nutritional supervision from their doctors after getting themselves assessed through medical tests. She suggests taking all medicines on time and warns against eating anything that can further trigger the pre-existing conditions. She also said that it is important for patients with diabetes to regularly check their blood sugar levels. Dr. Khandelwal said,

Underlying conditions, especially those associated with lifestyle choices, also makes us realize that our nutritional status is way more important than what we think it to be. We casually choose unhealthy, highly processed foods over healthier options in the want of taste but this behaviour only weakens our body and will be less efficient in making an effective recovery. As you sow, so shall you reap! So in summary, my advice is to invest in nutrition and a healthy lifestyle each day to the best of our capabilities.

Dr. Madan said that people who are taking care of COVID-19 patients must learn how to use food to add the power of nutrition to the patient’s body. She suggests learning about various combinations of nutrients and distributing various kinds of nutrition throughout the day. She added that the care-givers must learn by asking the doctors or nutritionists about what kind of foods provide maximum benefits at what time of the day.

Also Read: Poshan Month: Understanding Nutrition, What To Have And What To Avoid

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 (WaterSanitation 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 pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

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