Therapeutic diets for COVID patients
Dr Vasanta Kohli
Optimal nutrition and a healthy, balanced diet is an important therapy for treating COVID patients. A well-balanced diet strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of chronic and infectious diseases.
Including the right kind of food, in the right amounts, is important for our health and also for strengthening the immune system which makes the body strong to fight disease.
A diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein is recommended and includes vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin C and other essential antioxidants. Include a combination of different foods like whole grains and complex carbohydrates to provide energy for the body. Avoid refined flour like Maida and only use multigrain flour, avoid taking too refined and polished rice, provide calories and carbohydrates through complex carbohydrates. Avoid refined sugar and sugary drinks and glucose, as the virus survives and thrives on sugar and glucose. In case of high fever and illness, the patient may not be able to eat our usual chapattis and rice, therefore, provide a semi-solid liquid diet in the form of thin Kichadi, Dhaliya, porridge, custard, soups , etc. as possible.
The patient needs a good amount of protein to maintain the tissues and the strength of the body. 1 to 1.5 g of protein per kg of body weight should be given. The required amount of protein can be provided including eggs, cheese or paneer, milk, chicken, fish, meat, etc. for non-vegetarians and including different types of legumes and beans, milk, cheese, paneer in vegetarian diets.
The method of preparation should be changed depending on the patient’s condition – if the patient can take food of normal consistency, prepare the food in the conventional way, otherwise change it to hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, soups, mash depending on the patient’s ability to consume food.
Many vegetables can be included in the diet, for example in each main meal a gently cooked vegetable – vegetables can also be given as a mixed soup. This will provide the necessary vitamins and minerals.
To get the required amount of vitamin C and other antioxidants, fruits like melon, apple, orange or any other seasonal and locally grown fruit should be included – WHO recommends consuming a minimum of 400g , or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
If the patient is unable to take fruit due to indigestion or distension of the stomach, fruit juices, electrolytes, and coconut water may be given. Avoid carbonated drinks and other drinks with sugar syrup.
Certain seeds and nuts like sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, melon seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews are an excellent source of protein and vitamin E. Certain foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, and green vegetables like spinach, broccoli are also good options for boosting the body’s immunity against infections. Nutritional supplements rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are also good for boosting immunity. Some natural immune supplements include ginger, amla, and turmeric, which are common in our Indian dishes and snacks. There are several herbs that help boost immunity like garlic, basil leaves, and black cumin. It is advisable to take nutritional supplements like vitamin C to boost immunity and as a powerful antioxidant and protects against damage induced by oxidative stress.
Vitamin D has a mild protective effect against respiratory tract infections. Zinc is an essential component of white blood cells that fights infection. Zinc deficiency often makes a person more vulnerable to the flu, colds, and other viral infections.
Turmeric and Garlic: The bright yellow spice Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin that boosts immune function. Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties that boost the body’s immunity. Turmeric milk or golden milk be given to parents. Garlic roasted and boiled in milk can also be given to the patient.
Drink 8-10 glasses of lukewarm water every day – can consume lemon tea, fruit juices, vegetable soups, tea, etc. to maintain hydration. Avoid sugary fruit juices, syrups, and other sugary drinks.
Consume moderate amounts of fat and oil. Avoid fried and processed foods. Eat less salt and sugar. When cooking and preparing food, limit the amount of salt and high sodium condiments such as sauces. Limit salt intake to less than 5g, which is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. Avoid foods and snacks high in salt and sugar.
Most COVID patients experience loss of smell and taste or difficulty swallowing. It is important to eat semi-solid, soft, or liquid foods at small intervals. Add chutney and pudina, anardana, dry mango powder to boost the taste buds. Avoid vegetable salads, as they can interfere with digestion and cause stomach distension.
Healthy eating, physical activity, stress management, and getting enough sleep can help maintain health in children and adults and can be our first line of antiviral defense. Strict hygiene and food safety measures when handling food should be taken along with WHO recommended social distancing and quarantine protocols.
Each a variety of homemade foods including whole grains, lentils, legumes, legumes, fresh fruits and nuts and seeds of vegetables and some animal foods for non-vegetarians. Probiotics like yogurt, yakult, and fermented foods are good sources for rejuvenating the makeup of gut bacteria, which is important for the body to absorb nutrients.
Incorporating healthy habits that make up the whole body – light exercise, meditation and prayer, eating well, getting enough sleep, reducing stress will help cope with the infection and help the patient to exit successfully during the pandemic period.
Emergency diets can be discouraged because they affect the general immunity of the body. Maintain ideal body weight by eating a balanced diet with all the optimal nutrients.
(The author is a former HOD, Dietetics & Therapeutics, SKIMS, Srinagar & GMC, Jammu – Currently at BEE ENN General Hospital, Jammu.)