Good diet is important if you’re recuperating from the Coronavirus — here’s what it is best to have

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  • Business Insider spoke to nutritionist Dr. Rachita Ahuja, the co-founder of “The Diet Cell”, a company that creates bespoke diet plans and offers nutritional advice.
  • In her opinion, the most important thing is how the patient manages to produce the nutrient-rich food in order to replenish the body.
  • Vitamin D is important as many people are quarantined for 14 days.

At this point it would be difficult to find a person, especially in India, who is not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost everyone seems to have a relative, friend, colleague, spouse, or even child who is or has been exposed to the ravages of the virus. And while the suffering itself is terrible, the side effects and weakness it causes after recovery can bring down the healthiest.

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

Business Insider spoke to nutritionist Dr. Rachita Ahuja, the co-founder of “The Diet Cell,” a company that creates bespoke diet plans and provides nutritional advice to weigh and share your dietary recommendations.

In her opinion, the most important thing is how the patient manages to produce nutrient-dense foods in order to replenish the body and build healthy cells that the virus has destroyed. In some cases, the patient is all alone and has limited access to cooking an elaborate meal.

Then there are problems like loss of appetite, taste, smell and nausea. The best way to do this is to rely on nutritional supplements. Finding easy-to-cook, nutrient-dense dishes like quinoa khichdi that can be cooked in a cooker with lots of vegetables is a great option.

Those suffering from massive loss of appetite may consider options like Threptine and Ensure or other similar alternatives. Well-cooked food is also essential during this time as it kills the virus to some extent.

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Edited excerpts from our conversation with Dr. Ahuja:

Question: What do you think are the must-haves for those suffering from and recovering from the virus?

Additions: Doctors recommend vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc tablets because we can’t bridge the gap between good nutrition and needs. As a nutritionist, I would normally not recommend dietary supplements. Instead, I would tell my patients to have real supplements, but not now. Now it is important to rely on these supplements as they are concentrated and easy to digest.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can also be found in leafy vegetables or fruits. However, given symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, it can be difficult to consume enough amount to meet your needs. Hence, it is best to rely on nutritional supplements. Vitamin D is important as many people go through these 14 days of quarantine, which leads to depression, which can be resolved by taking vitamin D tablets. It’s also a great way to build body and immunity. Zinc is important because it aids in protein synthesis and helps in regaining your smell and taste.

Protein powder supplements aren’t really required as our diet is essentially high in carbohydrates and protein. Micro-minerals such as vitamin D that are not readily available in our diet should be present, and the vitamins and minerals that are readily available in our diet can be omitted.

Proteins: As the virus multiplies and kills the healthy cells, we have to regenerate the cells and let them grow back. Protein is therefore an essential part of these nutritional needs. Perhaps the richest source of protein for a vegetarian is dal, but on the other hand, dal is poor in protein quality. They are class B proteins. So vegetarians can opt for quinoa, a very good source of protein, and options like soy and kidney beans. Non-vegetarians can opt for eggs, which are an excellent source of protein, or for poultry or fish.

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

Liquids: Lemon water and electrolytes help with nausea and diarrhea. So it is important to have plenty of fluids. Ginger tea with honey is suitable for people with a wet cough. Solid raw turmeric that is boiled in water and drunk all day is also very beneficial. However, if you have a dry cough, turmeric should be avoided.

Dairy: Milk and dairy products are great sources of energy. Turmeric milk is also recommended. For those who are lactose intolerant, they can have almonds, oats, or soy milk.

Probiotics: Since nausea and diarrhea are common symptoms, it is important to focus on easily digestible foods that are good for colon health. Things like yogurt, Greek yogurt, probiotics help the gut and are easily available too.

Almonds and other nuts: Also recommended as they are high in protein and vitamin E.

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

Question: What are some of the things to avoid?

Sugar and Salt: Patients can’t have more than 5 grams of salt a day, which is quite a lot. Sugar needs to be minimized as these bacteria and viruses grow on the sugar part. It is therefore best to avoid too much sugar. To reduce salt intake, processed foods must be avoided as much as possible.

Question: There are many myths. What can you not believe?

These protein and carbohydrates should be avoided: as mentioned above, we both need to rebuild the cells. So protein is very much needed, but yes, there should be class A proteins that you can digest – like eggs, chicken, and fish. Carbohydrates are needed for energy supply, so it is important that these are also available. When you cut out carbohydrates, the energy the body needs is obtained from protein, the main function of which is to support cell growth. So if the patient does not consume enough carbohydrates, he uses proteins for energy production and the protein cannot support cell growth.

It’s also a myth that yogurt and tomatoes are unsuitable for patients and can make symptoms worse. Both are high in vitamin C. However, if the lungs are affected, cook the tomato and have cottage cheese at room temperature.

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