With the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are trying our best to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe and secure. From wearing masks to regularly washing your hands to social distancing, we all have to do our part in smoothing the curve. And while we do everything we can to protect ourselves from the outside, we should also spend time getting our immune systems into fighting shape.
“If it’s not already a focus of family life, this is actually an ideal time to prioritize nutrition and health,” says Retha Harmse, a registered nutritionist and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa. “As lockdown restrictions fluctuate; We will have more freedom of movement, but also more risks of getting COVID-19. A balanced diet plays an important role in maintaining good health and supporting the immune system and all of the body’s vital systems.
A balanced diet is the best immune support
We have all seen the WhatsApp group messages asking you to eat or drink various foods, medicinal plants or supplements as “immune boosters”, treatments or even “remedies”. But many (if not all) of these are misinformed and lack scientific evidence to protect you from the virus.
“Of course everyone wants to minimize their risk of contracting COVID-19. However, there is no simple quick fix to boosting our immune systems and making sure we don’t get infected. Put simply, there is no diet “boosting” your immune system, and no particular food or supplement will prevent you from contracting COVID-19. Good hygiene and social distancing are still the best ways to avoid infection, ”explains Retha.
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Eating a healthy, balanced diet of various foods that contain a spectrum of nutrients such as copper, folic acid, iron, selenium, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, and D is the best way to support immune function.
“In addition to a healthy, balanced diet, a generally healthy lifestyle is also important to support your immune system,” says Retha. “This means not smoking, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and, above all, minimizing stress, which is very intense this time.”
Enjoy a wide variety of foods
While certain foods are a little more difficult to come by, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of only eating certain foods. Variety also means including foods from two or more food groups at each meal.
Support local businesses like Yebo Fresh that deliver fresh fruits and vegetables right to your doorstep. You can also donate to families in need.
Regular, moderate exercise is very beneficial for getting outdoors, relieving stress, and improving immune function. Try some of these lockdown ideas:
- You don’t need large spaces for cardiovascular exercise – the puffing up and down is great; as well as skipping and skipping ropes are inexpensive cardio tools.
- Download exercise apps for daily training.
- Likewise, there are plenty of physical activity videos on YouTube, including dance, martial arts, and yoga (check out our selection of workouts while you’re there).
- If you have an enclosed garden or courtyard, play physical games such as handball, bat and ball, mini cricket or mini soccer as a family or couple and combine fun, bonding and exercise.
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Make starchy foods a part of most meals
Choose unrefined whole grains to add more fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your diet. Good options are whole wheat pasta, multigrain provitas or cracked bread, brown rice, and bulgur wheat.
Eat lots of vegetables and fruits every day
This can be a challenge while we are locked down and want to avoid frequent shopping.
- Choose fresh, whole fruits that naturally last longer, such as apples, pineapples, and citrus fruits.
- Eat fruits as snacks and desserts. Add sliced fruit or dried fruit to your granola, granola, or yogurt.
- Since some fresh vegetables don’t last long, blanch or cook them on the day of purchase and then freeze them for later use.
- Root and onion vegetable options like carrots and beets, onions, garlic, and ginger will last longer.
- Frozen vegetables and canned vegetables are also good options.
Eat dry beans, peas, lentils, and soy regularly
In addition to being a great substitute for meat, fish, eggs, or cheese, dried legumes can be used as affordable “meat extenders” to further enhance meals.
Drink milk, Maas or yogurt every day
Maas and yoghurt keep longer in the refrigerator than fresh milk. For longer-term milk options, buy long-life milk, skimmed milk powder, or condensed milk. Fresh dairy products can also be frozen. Eat yogurt with added fruit as a snack between meals instead of a packet of fries, as this will aid in the day’s nutrient absorption and will not contain excess fat and salt.
Fish, chicken, lean meat, or eggs can be eaten daily
Stock up on canned fish like tuna, pilchard and sardine. And meals like quiches and omelets are an easy and tasty way to consume vegetables that could soon spoil.
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Drink plenty of clean, safe water
This is perhaps the easiest time to get used to drinking enough water because you are confined to one room. Keep a bottle of water nearby so you can stay hydrated throughout the day.
Use fats sparingly
Choose vegetable oils instead of hard fats and always use little because fats are high in energy but relatively low in nutrients.
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