The growing number of Covid cases and recurrent waves sparked by new variants every few months have deteriorated the health of many people. Covid patients face health complications such as fever, cough, tiredness, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, headache, aches and pains, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, hair fall, fatigue, low energy levels, anxiety, and stress. The disease also causes muscle damage, weakness, and low energy levels. Hence, the need for good nutrition for rebuilding the damaged muscle tissues, improving the energy levels, and strengthening the immune system becomes imperative. Here’s all that you need to incorporate in your diet to boost your health after recovery from COVID-19.
Proteins: Protein is an important nutrient that compensates for muscle loss while recovering from Covid. Protein helps keep our cells healthy by providing fuel and transporting oxygen and blood throughout the body. It also improves muscle movement and helps form antibodies to fight off infections. Proteins play a crucial role in developing our immunity and are important components of the body's defence system. You can include foods such as soy products, quinoa, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, eggs, chicken, and fish as some good protein sources into your diet.
Water: During illness, our need for fluids increases as the body gets dehydrated and weak. Hydration becomes an important factor for recovery by maintaining a good electrolyte balance in the body. Common signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, fever, dark coloured urine, dryness of the mouth, increased heart rate, cramps in legs, tiredness, confusion, and brain fog. Have atleast 3-4 litres of water every day and have fluids such as lemon water, vegetable juice, fresh fruit juice, chia seeds water, coconut water, cucumber/grapefruit infused water, buttermilk, rice/carrot kanji, and others. Staying well-hydrated throughout the day not only heals and nourishes the body, but also replenishes the fluids lost during Covid.
Antioxidants: The regular consumption of antioxidants helps prevent and manage health issues such as heart diseases, high blood pressure, and sugar levels, disturbed lipid profile, inflammation, and bacterial infections. Antioxidants enable the balancing of the body's pH levels by flushing out toxins through the kidneys. They help scavenge free radicals from the body, boost immunity, and slow down cellular damage. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, helps boost immunity and increases the overall recovery and healing process. Include vitamin C rich foods like amla, berries, bell peppers, guavas, kiwi, tomatoes, and broccoli in your diet. Other foods rich in antioxidants include spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, avocados, beetroot, asparagus, lettuce, pumpkin, kale, berries, walnuts, and others.
Probiotics: After the skin, our gut is the first line of defence against any pathogenic infection. The gut keeps away bad bacteria from entering our body and causing inflammation. To maintain a healthy gut, one needs to eat a good amount of probiotic-rich foods in the diet such as yogurt, kombucha tea, pickles (preferably homemade), murabbas, rice/carrot kanji, buttermilk, foods like idli, dosa, dhokla, and others. These fermented foods are not only rich in gut-friendly bacteria, but also help in the digestion of proteins, preventing bloating issues.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a significant role in building immunity and reducing inflammation in the body. Thus it is recommended to include this vitamin in our everyday routine both as a prevention and cure for COVID-19. Insufficient vitamin D can lead to an increase in inflammatory cytokines. Vitamin D-rich foods include mushrooms, eggs, tofu, fish, milk and other fortified foods. One can also opt for vitamin D supplements on the recommendation of a doctor depending on their current levels in the body.
Zinc: Zinc possesses great antioxidant and antiviral properties which means it can potentially help reduce the ability of the virus to multiply and increase the severity of the infection. Zinc also speeds up recovery and helps bring back the taste and smell lost during covid infection. Incorporate foods rich in zinc in the everyday diet such as yogurt, oatmeal, oysters, chickpeas, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and fish.
Immunity boosters: Herbs and spices are extremely effective in boosting immunity and speeding up recovery after COVID-19. You can have a herbal tea/ decoction (also known as kadha) made from tulsi/ basil, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, turmeric, and green cardamom. Add a tsp of organic jaggery or honey to it. Add some lemon juice in the end to add that extra dose of vitamin C and enhance its taste. Other ways of including herbs and spices could be adding a pinch of turmeric to milk, and using ginger and garlic for cooking. You can also add ashwagandha, mulethi, nutmeg, and giloy in your diet for their excellent immunity-boosting properties.
Avoid processed, packaged, and preserved foods such as biscuits, namkeens, chips, cookies, rusk, and others as they provide only empty calories and have no nutritional value. Covid makes a person inactive and more susceptible to weight gain if these packaged foods are taken in excess. Instead, focus on healthy, freshly prepared home-cooked meals as they will provide you the much-needed nutrition for a healthy recovery. Avoid consuming too much of caffeinated beverages as they can dehydrate you, leading to muscle cramps. Caffeine can also reduce your haemoglobin levels due to the presence of tannins. Tannins interfere with proper iron absorption and obstruct the flow of iron in the body leading to low energy levels. Cut down on smoking and alcohol intake when you are in the recovery phase as these can trigger inflammation and lower your immunity.
Managing stress is important for overall recovery from Covid as stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol hormone which can further result in insulin resistance and other lifestyle disorders. To manage stress, focus on time management for each activity such as workout, sleep, eating pattern, working hours and others. Controlled stress can significantly boost the recovery process after Covid. Practice deep breathing techniques like anulom vilom, kapalabhati, and others to increasing the lung capacity and improve its functioning. Get a proper sleep of atleast 7-8 hours every day as it is important for the body’s revival and repair. A daily massage of 30 minutes with sesame oil will help improve the blood circulation, relax your nerves and ease up the pain in joints and muscles. Including steaming and gargling once every day will help clear up the nasal-respiratory passage and kill any potential bacteria.