How to maintain immune boosting nutrition during covid lockdown?

Here’s how you can boost your immune system the natural way. We asked an expert.

We spoke to UAE-based Clinical Dietitian, Mitun De Sarkar about how to strengthen your immune system that will help avoid the flu altogether. With the rapid spreading of coronavirus pandemic, we need to support our immune system now more than ever. Here are excerpts from our conversation about maintaining nutrition during covid lockdown.

Picture of nutritionist Mithun De Sarkar
Mitun De Sarkar, Clinical Dietitian (Photo – Supplied)

1) What is the best way to keep up nutrition during coronavirus pandemic?

Nutrition is very important in these tough times being faced all over the world. Good nutrition ensures that we keep our bodies in their ideal working state and give our immune system a fighting chance if, unfortunately, you are exposed to and get infected by the COVID 19 virus. At times like these, we need to ensure we stick to the basics of good nutrition.

Picture of onion, ginger, garlic, chillies in a metal plate
Photo by Anya Bell for Unsplash

Nutrition during Covid Lockdown

  1. I would urge everyone to focus more on plant-based foods. 60 to 70% of the diet should be focussed around fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This is the time our bodies need most antioxidants and phytonutrients to reduce inflammation, build a strong immunity to stay away from any sickness.
  2. Consume Broccoli, tricolor bell peppers, blueberries and all kinds of berries, oranges, spinach, and many other Vit C rich foods to help a strong immunity. If necessary supplement with at least 1000 mg of Vit C. These foods are not only rich in Vit C but also have Beta carotene, Vit A, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron and resveratrol
  3. Add garlic and ginger in your recipes in soups, stews, teas, pickled or your stir-fries. Ginger and garlic have sulfur-containing compounds called allicin that is antiviral and anti-inflammatory
  4. Add turmeric in your meals in fresh or powder form as turmeric is anti-inflammatory and stimulates antibody formation
  5. Start cooking your food in coconut oil as lauric acid and caprylic acid that can boost immunity
  6. Consume fermented foods regularly like sauerkraut, kimchi, homemade pickles, kombucha teas, taking some probiotic, kefir to keep a healthy gut which in turn complements a healthy immune system.
  7. Green teas have flavonoids and EGCG that is a hard-working antioxidant for your cells.
  8. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and if possible warm fluids with herbs and lemon
  9. Eat natural sources of Vit E and zinc from nuts, seeds, fish, seafood.
  10. Get plenty of sunlight and absorb natural Vit D
  11. Eat smaller portions. As the movement is rightfully restricted, our calorific need is not as high as it is during normal workdays when we move around a lot more.
  12. Avoid processed foods. They have higher levels of salt, sugar, and nitrates, both of which can cause hypertension, insulin imbalance, high lipids which is something you want to avoid. Particularly in these times.
  13. Have set meal times and avoid grazing. During these times we have the liberty to make sure we can eat at set meal times. This also ensures that we plan a little for our meals and can then manage portion size as well.

“ Avoid information overload”

Picture of potato avocado
Photo by Alexandra Andersson for Unspash

2) How does one manage stress eating during these times?

It is indeed a stressful time for all of us. Stress eating may be a result of not being able to manage anxiety. If anxiety is affecting day-to-day life, I recommend seeking professional help. Meanwhile, avoid information overload. We live in a hyper-connected world where information and misinformation spread very rapidly. Follow the official government guidance and channels of information. Do not overwhelm yourself by constantly seeking news about COVID 19. Remind yourself that if you are safe at home, you are safe and protecting yourself, your loved ones and your community at large.
Remind yourself of the important aspects daily. Take a moment to put nice clothes on. Follow some kind of routine. If it gets too overwhelming, seek professional support.

“Plan with what you would like to cook, for say a week”

Picture of a Pack of strawberries
Photo by Eduardo Sanchez for Unsplash

3) How we make sure that we are eating healthy while facing limited
access to fresh foods?

Online ordering is working and the authorities issue the permits for you to go to the supermarket to get your food items. Plan ahead with what you would like to cook, for say a week, make a list of items and either order them online or a quick visit to the supermarket with masks and gloves and don’t go to the market when you are hungry, that’s when we end up buying those snacks in shining wrappers.
We are fortunate to so far not see any shortages in the supplies.

4) What are the long-lasting fresh fruits and vegetables easily
available in the UAE?

Fresh fruits and vegetables by nature are not meant to last long. So only buy that which is for consumption in a reasonable period.
Correct packing, storing and refrigeration helps in prolonging the life of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also consider buying frozen vegetables like peas, carrots and green beans. Frozen vegetables last longer and are nutritionally quite close to the fresh ones. Some fruits, like berries, also freeze well and are delicious in smoothies.

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Photo of coconut at roadside stall from Unsplash
Photo by Jonathan Steffanon for Unsplash
Arti Dani
Arti Dani is a journalist by trade, a travelling runner with 5 international marathons, one ultra-marathon under her belt. 100 push-ups a day is a simple job for her, even though she's still working to perfect her headstand skills.
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