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Fix your health with food amid lockdown

As Covid-19 highlights the interplay between food and health, people are reconsidering their eating habits. Is it driving the demand for healthy food?

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5:05 am IST

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Coronavirus is having a profound impact on our eating and drinking habits as people are becoming more conscious of what they are eating and how it is going to impact their overall well-being. Due to Covid-19, they are keen to maximise their fitness to build and enhance the immunity, while minimising their vulnerability to the infection. Thus, people are making greater attempts towards a healthier lifestyle.

Concerns about Covid-19 encompass a wide range covering health as well as financial qualms. People are making efforts to be health conscious but, on a budget. They are turning to everyday food items or what can be termed as ‘back to basics’ approach towards nutrition. It includes eating more fruits, increasing protein intake and reducing sugar intake. The impact of the pandemic can also be seen on people’s mental health, therefore many of them are turning to ‘comfort food’ to improve their mood and mental state in these times which can be deep-fried or cheesy snacks, desserts and more. Indulging once in a while is alright but do not make it a habitual pattern. Some of the healthier alternatives are nuts (almonds and walnuts), vitamin C rich food (lemon, orange, bell peppers, green chilli and kiwi), green leafy veggies and dark chocolate.

Dietician and fitness coach Venu Adhiya Hirani, who is also the founder of BODYWORKS Weight Management Specialists, shares some healthy food items which can be included in everyday life. She says, “Those foods which will aid in improving resistance will build the immunity. Include foods rich in protein such as milk and milk products, eggs, pulses and lean meats. At least, four to six servings of fresh vegetables and fruits throughout the day will provide the body essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. Traditional Indian spices and herbs which are known for their medicinal properties should be used liberally while cooking. Also, try to have ‘chyawanprash’, ‘kaadha’, nuts and seeds.”

Are healthy eating habits and immunity co-related? Manasa Rajan, Health Coach & Food Design, Eat. fit, answers, “A nutritionrich diet ensures that the body’s micronutrient reserves are adequate of zinc, selenium, folic acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and more. These are critical as they impact the natural infection-fighting response of the body. A colourful plant-rich diet with a variety of fruit, veggies, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains can improve the (micro) nutrition intake. Gut health and a healthy microbiome ensure healthy digestion, efficient absorption and elimination, which are needed to create a strong immune response. Immunity boosting spices such as ginger, turmeric, cloves and peppercorns contain a variety of antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can improve our immune response.”

In the initial days of lockdown, people began consuming meals cooked at home and to further boost their immunity they inclined towards healthy food, exploring organic alternatives. The pandemic increased people’s consciousness in terms of their dietary choices. Yuvraj Parasrampuria, Director, Sales & Marketing, Truefarm Foods India Pvt Ltd, says, “Due to lockdown those who were avidly consuming junk food switched to regular home-cooked meals. Now that people have the option to cook at home and most Indian families have multiple members it’s natural to make choices in line with their overall health. Thus, people started consuming healthier alternatives such as jaggery powder, honey and coconut sugar instead of sugar. The food that appears healthy on the outside may contain harmful chemicals and pesticides and lead to complications in future. Thus, Covid-19 has led to roughly 10-20% people opting for organic food.” The high price of organic food cannot be ignored and makes people hesitant to purchase it. He explains, “It is true but these days retail spending has considerably reduced which people are using to try organic products. India being a competitive market, the price of organic food is not that high in comparison with regular food.”

The pandemic has made people to switch to healthy fitness and lifestyle regimes. Talking about its significance Hirani says, “Lack of physical activity and emotional stress are challenging that the pandemic has brought with it and those with comorbidities are at a greater risk. Physical activity, in any form, will aid in dealing with stress, improve immunity and overall wellbeing. It will help to control weight, blood sugar and blood pressure besides keeping joints and muscles in good shape. If you are completely homebound try and walk for five minutes every waking hour within your house. Include yoga and callisthenics-based exercises which don’t require equipment and space.”

Rishi Jaggi, dietician and sports nutritionist adds, “Consume turmeric water first thing in the morning. Make sure that the level of Vitamin D in your body is high as Vitamin D and Vitamin C help to boost immunity. According to examine.com, Indians have low Vitamin D levels so make sure you do not have any micronutrient deficiencies. Try to have adequate protein intake throughout the day which is mostly neglected by females. Those with a sedentary lifestyle are higher risk so they need to make sure of engaging in one hour of daily activity such as walking, jogging or light exercises. Fancy Diets are not required if you follow the basics including consuming neem and amla juice and fruits. Also, avoid refined sugar as when one eats even a half teaspoon of refined sugar it lowers their immunity by 50%. Try to avoid refined sugars and fats.”

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