Diet plan for Covid patients: A diet to improve the immune system

Food Health Lifestyle

A healthy immune system is important for our survival since it helps us protect from myriads of illnesses. In recent days, having a strong immunity is very important due to the ongoing pandemic to deal with coronavirus infection. A strengthened immune system is essential for both covid patients and people who are on the path to recovery. Also, people who have not contracted covid should possess good immunity to suffer the least symptoms or side effects and fight the new Coronavirus infection. Our eating habits and lifestyle is closely bound to our immunity. To best have the healthiest outcome, adopting a healthy and nutritional diet plan for covid patients is very crucial especially when your body’s immunity is low.

Diet plan for covid patients to improve the immune system

Make yourself clear that there is no magic diet or foods to increase immunity. Improving your immune system relies on the diet you take. What you prefer to eat and drink matters as during covid you may feel hungry or you may also lose your appetite with losing the sense of taste and smell. The diet plan for covid patients may also vary because of the different symptoms or depending on the medical condition of a person. All these factors, in turn, will determine how quickly you’re able to get back on your feet.

We have written this article with a special focus on COVID symptoms and patients. What food should they take? How much to consume? We have provided you with the best immune-boosting diet that would help rebuild immunity and energy levels. You can incorporate the immune-boosting diet for the post covid diet and after covid vaccine diet as well.

Also read: Post Covid Care: 10 things you must follow after recovery

Essentials to include in your diet plan

Calories: Nutrition matters, but calories matter too. Covid drains your energy and your body needs calories for energy to help fight infection. Include a diet with food high in calories like rice, potatoes, bread, pasta, whole grains and cereals, but avoid foods with zero or no calories like all types of junk food. Also, try to get calories however you can and eat foods that make you feel good. It is more important than worrying about getting enough zinc or vitamin A.

Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of life and a major element to make you feel better. So, eat more protein-rich foods to fulfil your nutritional needs every day. Add plenty of whole grains, dairy products, soy products, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds to your diet plan for covid patients. Chicken, fish and eggs are a rich source of protein. If you’re non-vegetarian, you may have plenty of them.

Fruits and veggies: Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet helps you get dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Try to include as much as fruit and green leafy vegetables in your diet including every fruit to every veggie. Eating five servings of all coloured plant-based foods are a must to get adequate vitamins and minerals.

Immune-boosters: Along with fruits and vegetables, add herbs and some spices to your daily diet as they have immense immune-boosting qualities. There are many ayurvedic herbs and spices to consume regularly for a healthy body as these are the best foods to increase immunity. You can consume drinks made with herbs and spices like kadha, turmeric milk, green tea, herbal tea, etc. A glass of turmeric milk daily is good to boost one’s immunity.

Fluids: Stay hydrated and rest as much as you can. Try to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day as infections may dehydrate you and cause you to sweat out water. So it’s important to rehydrate. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. You may drink water, buttermilk, homemade juices, soups, carbonated water or soda, electrolyte drinks, and coconut water. Hydrating also helps avoid urinary tract infections.

Whole plant foods: Antioxidants are the best immune boosters and a whole plant-based diet possesses 64-times the amount of antioxidants as compared to a meat and dairy diet. Try to include more and more whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes which are a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants. Eat different coloured whole plants for a varied nutritional profile. 

Eat healthy fats: Consuming healthy fats is important to boost immunity and naturally fight illnesses. Since inflammation can affect our immunity level, healthy fats like olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil and foods rich in omega-3s are highly anti-inflammatory and are considered the best immune-boosting foods. 

You can get nutrients in your diet by eating varied food. Having balanced nourishment with moderate carbs and fats, and High protein and antioxidants is a must in your diet plan for covid patients. This is because consuming them in large quantities may lead to negative side effects. So eat only as much as required by your body. 

Nutritional Requirements for Covid patients

There really isn’t any one food that works but there are certain nutrients including protein, vitamins A, C, D and E and zinc that help support your immune system. You can consume these through varied foods to improve immunity. At first, aim at consuming 50% of the actual nutritional requirement of a person suffering from Covid and gradually proceed to 70% by the 3rd day. You may slowly reach up to 100% by the end of the week.

Calorie requirement 

  • Non-obese: 25-30kcal/kg Actual Body Weight
  • Obese: 25-30kcal/kg body weight 
  • Underweight: 25-35kcal/kg Adjusted BW

Nutrition requirement

Vitamin A: To be consumed through diet

Protein: 1-1.5gm/kg Actual Body Weight

Vitamin D: 10-1000mcg/day

Fats:  25-30% of the total calories

Vitamin E: 134-800mg/day

  • Zinc: 30-220mg
  • Vitamin C: 200mg- 2gm

The above micronutrients increase the antibody in your body and will work as the best diet for COVID recovery. In case of diarrhea, the nutrition should be provided through Oral Nutritional Supplements (ONS). Around 400-600kcals per day and 30gms of protein should be consumed through ONS. This should be continued for at least a month and the assessment should be done every 3rd day.

Diet plan you may follow

For Breakfast: Start your day with soaked almonds and raisins. With this, you can have ragi dosa/ bowl of porridge/ Veg Poha / Chila/ Veg upma/ Veg seviyan/ Idli + 2 egg whites/ Milk with Haldi and ginger powder.

For Lunch: ragi or multi-grain flour Chapati/ Rice/ Veg Pulao/khichdi/dal, green vegs, Curd Salad (sweet potato, carrot and cucumber). Along with your meal, you can have jaggery or ghee

Evening: Consume Ginger tea, green tea or veg or chicken or sprouts chaat

Dinner: Having khichdi in dinner is very healthy, it is packed with essential nutrients and induces sleep. Take chapatis made with Ragi/ multigrain flour with soya beans or paneer or chicken or green veggies along with Salad (sweet potato, carrot and cucumber).

Few important nutritional tips for COVID Diet

You should include Antioxidant Vitamins and Minerals in your covid recovery diet. Vitamin C and Vitamin D are especially recommended as foods to improve the immune system. Moderate carbohydrates and fats are also essential in your daily diet. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons and red bell peppers are good vitamin C sources. These also act as antioxidants.

  • If the patient is getting diarrhoea/nausea Veg Khichdi and tea with ginger, tulsi/ lemongrass, cinnamon, clove or cardamom.
  • Electrolyte drinks, Coconut water, maple water, sports drinks, you’re having trouble eating or experiencing diarrhoea or vomiting. Ginger in soup or tea may help with nausea. 
  • Stress and Anxiety may affect your immunity. Dark chocolate is among the best immune-boosting foods. Small amounts of dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa can get your immunity levels back and can lift your mood.
  • Loss of smell and taste or difficulty in swallowing is a common issue among covid patients. Eating soft foods at small intervals is good to take in the diet for covid patients. 
  • Include almonds and raisins intake in your daily diet during covid. Almonds are an amazing source of protein while raisins are a good iron source.
  • Most Covid patients have coughs and itchy throats. So, take warm water with organic honey and lime or with tulsi leaves in your diet during covid. Tea with honey is also comforting and helps manage COVID symptoms. 
  • If you are not hungry, a smoothie with fruits and yoghurt or nut butter may help you get calories. Foods like bananas, apples, oranges or sweet lime juice are energy-boosting and are great foods to improve immunity.
  • Avoid packaged food or leftover food and prioritise fresh foods. Don’t rely on outside food and take freshly cooked meals in covid recovery diet
  • Eating sugary foods may lower down our immune system’s ability to respond to challenges and can produce excessive inflammation. So, avoid sugary drinks, alcohol and coffee as these lead to dehydration and may interfere with your immune system. So, better you replace it with something hydrating.
  • Limit the foods that are hard to digest as they take more energy to digest and may upset your stomach and GI tract. Eating foods that are easy to digest is good as a diet for covid patients in India. 
  • Crunchy, hard foods, spicy food or anything very acidic may irritate your throat if you have a sore throat. Avoid taking any such food item in your diet during Covid

Other ways to improve the immune system

A healthy diet and lifestyle are highly important to defend us from germs, viruses, and chronic illnesses. Replacing bad health habits with good ones is always suggested as home care tips for treating covid to keep health in check. Inhibition of a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to improve the immune system. Follow the below tips to strengthen your immunity:

 Have a sufficient sleep 

Sleep and immunity are interlinked. Adequate sleep is very essential as, during sleep, a protein called cytokines is released by your immune system. These cytokines are responsible for fighting infection or inflammation. Insufficient sleep may affect their production leaving you prone to developing disease after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep also affects our recovery period. So, increasing the production of these protective cytokines is necessary when the virus attack you. Having sufficient sleep of at least 7-8 hours of sleep is important to keep you active throughout the day.

Exercise regularly

Just like eating a healthy and nutritional diet, regular exercise and yoga help your immunity perform at a high level and promote healthy living. Taking a daily walk, practising yoga or following a regular exercise routine improves blood flow and circulation and helps in flushing the germs and toxins from the body that contribute to a healthy immune system. This may reduce your chance of developing any health issues. You must include a daily 30-minute walk to ensure that your immune system is in superior condition.

Relieve stress 

Stress can overpower our healthy immune system and can hinder both our physical and mental health, exposing us to illnesses. Being in stress an cause sleeplessness, high blood pressure, depression, and cardiovascular problems like stroke and heart attack. So follow stress-relieving techniques and keep yourself busy in activities that entertain you. Meditation is one of the restorative activities that may provide relief, easing the day-to-day stress of the body. Seeking professional help is also suggested to curb it as soon as possible

Quit smoking 

Smoking has several negative effects including suppressing the immune system. This is because it has nicotine which lessens your body’s immune response to the extent that your body stops responding to invasions. This can lead to many health issues like stroke, COPD, lung cancer, heart disease

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