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Good nutrition is vital if you are recuperating from the Coronavirus — here is what you should have – Business Insider India

  • Business Insider spoke to nutritionist Dr Rachita Ahuja, the co-founder of “The Diet Cell”, a venture that makes custom-made diet plans and provides diet consultation.
  • The main thing, according to her, is to address how the patient will manage to make the food that is nutrient-dense to replenish the body.
  • Vitamin D is vital because many people are undergoing14 days of quarantine.

At this point, one would be hard-pressed to find an individual, particularly in India, who has not been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost everyone seems to be having a relative, a friend, a colleague, a spouse, or even a child facing or has faced the ravages of the virus. And while the suffering itself is awful, the side effects and the weakness it causes post-recovery can bring down the healthiest.

Most doctors say there are no major dietary restrictions for those suffering from or recovering from COVID-19, but there are certainly a whole lot of recommendations that will help patients heal better and heal faster.

Business Insider spoke to nutritionist Dr Rachita Ahuja, the co-founder of “The Diet Cell”, a venture that makes custom-made diet plans and provides diet consultation, to weigh in and share her nutritional recommendations.

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The main thing, according to her, is to address how the patient will manage to make the food that is nutrient-dense to replenish the body and build healthy cells that the virus has destroyed. In some cases, the patient is all alone with limited access to cooking an elaborate meal.

Then there are issues like the loss of appetite, taste, smell and nausea to deal with. The best way to do that is to depend on supplements. Looking for easy-to-make nutrient-dense meals like quinoa khichdi that can be made in a cooker topped with plenty of vegetables is a great option.

Those experiencing massive appetite loss can look at options like Threptin and Ensure or other similar alternatives. Also, well-cooked food is essential to have during this time because it kills the virus to an extent.

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Edited excerpts of our conversation with Dr Ahuja follow:

Q. What, according to you, are the must-haves for those both suffering and recovering from the virus?

Supplements: Doctors are recommending vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc tablets, because we are not able to bridge the gap between good nutrition and the requirement. As a dietician, I would usually not advise supplements. Instead, I would tell my patients to have real food supplements, but not now. Now it is essential to rely on these supplements because they are concentrated and easily digestible.

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Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can also be available in leafy vegetables or fruits, but given the symptoms like nausea and diarrhoea, consuming enough quantity that will fulfil your requirements may be challenging, so it is best to rely on supplements. Vitamin D is vital because many people are undergoing these 14 days of quarantine, leading to depression, which can be addressed by having vitamin D tablets. It is also a good way to build the body and immunity. Zinc is important because it helps in protein synthesis and helps get back your smell and taste.

Protein powder supplements are not really required because our diet is essentially rich in carbohydrates and protein. Micro minerals like vitamin D that are not easily available in our diets should be had, and the vitamins and minerals that are easily available in our diets can be omitted.

Proteins: As the virus is multiplying and killing the healthy cells, we need to regenerate and regrow the cells. So protein is an essential part of these nutritional requirements. The richest source of protein for a vegetarian is perhaps dal, but then again, dal provides poor quality of protein; they are B-class proteins. So vegetarians can opt for quinoa, which is a very good protein source, and options like soya, kidney beans. Non-vegetarians can opt for eggs, which is a great source of protein, or poultry or fish.

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Seeds and sprouts: Are all very important during this period. Sprouts are a rich source of vitamin C. Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein and vitamin E.

Fluids: Lemon water and electrolytes will help with nausea and diarrhoea. So it is important to have a lot of fluids. Ginger tea with honey is suitable for those with a wet cough. Solid raw turmeric boiled in the water and having throughout the day is also quite beneficial. However, those experiencing dry cough should avoid turmeric.

Dairy: Milk and milk products are a great source of energy. Turmeric milk is also recommended. For those who are lactose intolerant, they can have almond, oats or soya milk.

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Probiotics: Since nausea and diarrhoea are common symptoms, concentrating on easily digestible food and good for gut health is essential. Things like yoghurt, greek yoghurt, probiotics will help the gut and are also easily accessible.

Almond and other nuts: Are also recommended as they are a rich source of protein and vitamin E.

Fresh vegetables and fruits are, of course, a staple. A balance in all of the above and the combinations of these is key.

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Q. What are some of the things that must be avoided?

Sugar and salt: Patients cannot have more than 5 grams of salt a day, which is also quite a bit. Sugar has to be minimised because these bacteria and viruses grow on the sugar part. So it’s best to avoid too much sugar. To reduce salt intake, processed foods must be avoided as much as possible.

Q. There are myths aplenty, what are some of the things one must not believe?

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That protein and carbohydrates should be avoided: As mentioned above, we need both to rebuild the cells. So protein is very much required, but yes, A-class proteins should be had, the ones you can digest — like eggs, chicken, and fish. Carbohydrates are required for energy, so it is vital to have that too. If you give up on carbohydrates, the energy needed for the body is drawn from the protein, whose primary function is to help cell growth. So if the patient does not take enough carbohydrates, they will be tapping on proteins for energy, and the protein will not be able to help in cell growth.

Also, it’s a myth that yoghurt and tomatoes are not suitable for patients and that it may aggravate the symptoms. These are both rich sources of vitamin C. However, if the lungs are affected, cook the tomato and have curd at room temperature.

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