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Eat right to stay healthy

  • March 16, 2021
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Image Credit: Shutterstock

While the Covid vaccine is finally providing hope during the pandemic, it remains crucial that the immune system is strengthened. The good news is that a nutritious diet is one of the simplest steps you can take to ensure that you stay fighting fit.

The Covid vaccine provides a good protection level, but this protection still comes through alerting the body’s immune system. So, even with the Covid vaccination, we still need good immunity to defend the body against infections.

– Dr Ahmed Abdelhameed, Specialist Internal Medicine, Medcare Women & Children Hospital

Dr Ahmed Abdelhameed, Specialist Internal Medicine, Medcare Women & Children Hospital, says, “Since the pandemic started, people have become more aware of the importance of healthy eating for immunity and they have also given up many bad habits. This would surely reflect positively on them. The Covid vaccine provides a good protection level, but this protection still comes through alerting the body’s immune system. So, even with the Covid vaccination, we still need good immunity to defend the body against infections.”

Good nutrition can reduce the likelihood of developing many health problems, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

– Dr Uzma Mehraj, General Practitioner, Aster Speciality Clinic, Dubai International City

The adage of ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is worth remembering. Fresh fruits, such as apples, strawberries and blueberries, are full of healthy antioxidants that can boost your well-being.

“Good nutrition can reduce the likelihood of developing many health problems, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes,” says Dr Uzma Mehraj, General Practitioner, Aster Speciality Clinic, International City in Dubai.

“Eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains, and food from animal sources to stay healthy.”

Add variety to your diet

“Opting for a balanced, adequate and varied diet is an important step towards a happy and healthy lifestyle,” says Sreela Nair, Clinical Dietician at Mediclinic City Hospital.

“Vitamins and minerals in the diet are vital to boost immunity and healthy development. It can protect the body against certain types of diseases, particularly non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, some types of cancer and skeletal conditions. It can also help attain or maintain optimum body weight.”

Vitamins and minerals in the diet are vital to boost immunity and healthy development.

– Sreela Nair, Clinical Dietician at Mediclinic City Hospital

We often hear about the term superfood, which includes leafy greens and berries, but how exactly do these affect the body?

“Superfoods are considered nutrient powerhouses that provide large quantities of antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Most superfoods are plant-based, but some fish and dairy are also included in this group,” Nair says, adding, “Many people have unrealistic expectations from superfoods, thinking that they will be protected from chronic diseases and health problems if they eat one or two of these foods on top of a poor diet. Superfoods alone won’t make you healthier – but adding these nutritious foods to a balanced diet can have health benefits.”

Nutrition basics

Along with superfoods, also consider the benefits of macronutrients and micronutrients.

“These nutrients promote growth and development and regulate body processes,” says Nair.

“Macronutrients — namely carbohydrates, protein, and fat — are needed in larger amounts. They provide energy and contain calories. Micronutrients, commonly referred to as vitamins and minerals, are needed in smaller amounts for our overall health and to digest macronutrients,” she explains.

A combination of a healthy balanced diet, adequate sleep, exercise and lower stress levels primes the body to fight infections.

– Dr Shabari Patkar, Consultant Family Medicine, Mediclinic City Hospital

Although healthy eating provides many benefits, including a trimmer waistline, it might be time to consider a complete lifestyle overhaul to ensure good health and a robust immune system.

Dr Shabari Patkar, Consultant Family Medicine, Mediclinic City Hospital, says, “The immune system is influenced by more than diet. A combination of a healthy balanced diet, adequate sleep, exercise and lower stress levels primes the body to fight infections. A lot of these are within our power to modify. A strong immune system is not something that needs to be targeted at particular germs but can carry you through many tough times. Maintaining a balanced diet is a perfect place to start.” n

Immunity boosting food

Sreela Nair, Clinical Dietician, Mediclinic City Hospital, shares some examples of nutrients that can help strengthen the immune system.

Vitamin C helps prevent infections or shortens their stay.
Sources: Citrus fruits, spinach, kale, guava

Vitamin D is needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Sources: Salmon, fortified milk, orange juice, cereals

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant.
Sources: Almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, oils like sunflower, soybean etc.

Vitamin A helps fight infections.
Sources: Tuna, red meat, carrots, pumpkin, squash, dark leafy vegetables

Zinc helps produce new immune system cells.
Sources: Lean meat, poultry, beans, yoghurt

Selenium helps fight infections.
Sources: Tuna, sardines, cheese, poultry

Iron helps carry oxygen to cells.
Sources: Beans, leafy vegetables, dates, iron-fortified cereals.

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