Since the lockdown has been eased, allowing certain liberties, here are some dos and don’ts to include in your health chart as you step in and out of your homes. By Dr Meghana Pasi
Phew! The lockdown has finally ended! In the midst of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, cities are opening to get back in business. However, it’s important to note that this is the most critical time as the chances of getting infected are very high now. Unlock 1.0 has brought fear, tension and anxiety about our future. People are suffering from muscle tightness, weight gain, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure and issues with personal, social and work relationships. And they are at utmost risk!
Hence, amongst all this, we need to come out strong — mentally, physically and emotionally. This can be done by building a healthy immune system, which is our body’s defence mechanism. Here are some dos and don’ts to build a healthy immune and to keep in mind for when you step out of your home.
Nutrition not only supplies building blocks for building your immune system but also affects your gut microbiome. Your gut microflora sets a communication link between your immune system and your brain.
Remember the thumb rule — fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits, one-fourth with proteins and remaining one-fourth with carbs.
Vegetables like bottle gourd (lauki), bitter gourd (karela), cauliflower, beans, broccoli, ladyfinger; green leafy vegetables like spinach (palak), fenugreek (methi), amaranth, colocasia, drumstick leaves, coriander and mint; yellow-orange and citrus fruits like guava, papaya, mango, orange, amla, are rich sources of Beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Folate and minerals like potassium and magnesium. They also contain fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients, which help in increasing resistance against diseases, protecting against cancers and chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and asthma, regulating blood pressure. Tip: Include at least five servings of fruits and veggies in your everyday meals.
Dals, pulses, beans, nuts, milk and milk products, soya beans are rich sources of proteins for a vegetarian meal. Non-vegetarians can add extra proteins by having eggs, poultry, and fish. Proteins boost the immune system by forming immunoglobulins / antibodies. Tip: Include one bowl of any protein source with each meal.
Add complex carbs like millets (bajra, jowar, ragi, maize) in place of white rice and wheat. These are rich in B-complex vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, which help in keep our heart healthy, regulate blood pressure, prevent cancer, lower risk of diabetes and increase immunity.
Spice up your meals with our Indian spices and herbs. Pepper, ginger, garlic, cumin, cloves, fenugreek seeds, turmeric contain chemical compounds, which have antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties that can help to fight-off infection. Tip: Add them in your veggies, dals and curries, make a concoction (kadha) using tulsi, mint, cloves, ginger, honey, rock salt and lemon or simply have a mint and adrak wali chai (mint, ginger tea).
Drink at least two litres of water every day. Dehydration can cause drowsiness, fatigue, loss of focus and mood swings. Juices, milk shakes, buttermilk, coconut water also are a good way to beat dehydration. Keep two full water bottles on your side with your name on it and make sure to finish the two by the end of the day.
Make a daily meal plan
Start your day with a healthy yet quick breakfast. Breakfast should be a combination of complex carbs, proteins and fibre. Go for omelette, vegetable poha or upma, vegetable sandwich, idli chutney sambar, milk and cereals with fruits, boiled eggs, parathas from leftover dal/vegetable.
Grab a handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts) and fruits when hungry between your meals instead of fried snacks or cookies. Nuts are rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, the best source of plant proteins and a store house of flavonoids, antioxidants and minerals. Prepare peanut or til chikki or laddus for kids.
Balance your lunch thali. You can have mix vegetable pulao with curd, rajma rice with buttermilk, paneer wrap with chickpea salad and lassi, pasta with paneer salad and curd. If you are a non-vegetarian, make some fish curry with rice and curd or chicken wraps, burgers with green salad and curd. Go for another round of fruits instead of tea/coffee at tea time to avoid caffeine intake.
Let the dinner be light if you do not stay physically active throughout the day. Go for salads with boiled eggs and curd, bisibele rice with curd, dal rice or khichadi and vegetable or soup with pulao.
Have a glass of warm milk with turmeric at bedtime. This not only helps you get good sleep but also boosts your immunity.
Stay physically active
Physical activity increases the immune regulation and decreases the inflammatory response by flushing out the pathogens. It also helps in faster circulation of the WBCs to farthest parts of our body.
In between your office calls, get up and do paper push-ups, book press, shoulder blade squeezes, stretches, chair yoga. You can even put on your headphones and walk around the room while you take the calls. Keep a step count target for yourself, make sure you reach it every day.
Children and elderly lack a strong immune system compared to adults. Play indoor games with your kids, make them hop, jump and skip. Senior people can try yoga, walking and meditation.
Ensure 30 minutes of sunlight exposure for Vitamin D. It lowers anxiety, depression and improve overall brain health.
Avoid certain ingredients
First, alcohol as well as smoking, which we really need to avoid. They can have adverse effects on your immunity. Excessive consumption of these reduces the immune system’s response to invading pathogens.
Avoid late nights and prolonged working hours. Binge-watching, ‘Netflix and chilling’ are the newest enemies of restful sleep. Research has shown that seven to nine hours of sleep is mandatory for release of several chemicals, which help us build our immunity.
Avoid consumption of foods high in salt, sugar, refined foods and fried foods. These weaken the immunity and digestive system. Packaged and processed foods are not only harmful but they may even carry unwanted surface pathogens with them.
In these times of uncertainty, finding structure helps you maintain productivity by setting a routine. With these little efforts and tweaks in our daily routine we can be strong and healthy to survive this new normal.
(The writer is Nutrition Consultant with Arogya World’s MyThali programme.)