"I don’t feel there's been a time where your diet, or what you are putting into your body has been more important than it is today," says clinical dietician, nutritionist and celebrity food guru Pooja Makhija. While speaking to Cosmo about the ideal diet and food habits to follow as we are isolated in our homes, Pooja stresses strongly on the need to adopt a healthy diet and watch what we eat. "Yes, you may be under house arrest," she says, "and you may be comfort, stress, companionship or just plain boredom eating right now, but this behaviour is going to wear us down even further. Just staying locked up in your home is not enough, you need to give your body the right ammunition to keep your immunity levels high,” she adds. “Our food is the fuel that will give our bodies the right ammunition to fight against the onset of any virus or disease. You need to eat right to defend your body from within. In this aspect, your kitchen essentially becomes your pharmacy. "
Pooja explains that 80% of the people infected with COVID-19 will be asymptomatic (won't have any clear symptoms). In order to have an inherent immunity not to fall prey to the virus, we need to eat with thought. Therefore, there is no better time than the present to make some important diet and lifestyle changes.
When asked what we should be avoiding, she stresses the importance of avoiding uncooked food such as raw salads, raw meats and fruits that cannot be peeled. " We should try to avoid cold food because this virus thrives in the cold,” says Pooja. “Since it enters your body through the nasal-oral route, eating cold food can accentuate your susceptibility to the virus. The more hot and cooked foods you eat, the stronger the chances are that you can nip it in the bud."
"We’re not only talking about eating for today," she adds. "We are talking about eating today to be safe tomorrow. So, if you're going to consume junk and empty calorie foods such as chips, Cuppa noodles etc, these foods are commercially processed, high on fat and sugar, and will weaken your immune system in the long run."
According to Pooja, we may save ourselves from the virus, but if we stay indoors and gain fat, we are at risk for higher instances of diabetes, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and other health ailments." We may be flattening the curve (of the disease)," she explains, " but we are harmfully increasing the curve of our bodies and risking our health."
What then, can we do, to ensure we eat healthy? "Avoid excess amounts of junk food and stick to home-cooked meals," Pooja enumerates."Since then there is genuine concern in terms of hygiene, method of preparation and nutrition, there is no point in eating food made in a commercial kitchen right now. Eat small frequent meals, every two hours, and try not to eat after large gaps because that is when we tend to eat the wrong food. When your blood sugar levels drop, your motivation, enthusiasm, knowledge — everything goes out of the window.” Her solution? “Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to eat every 2 hours whether it's a fruit or a khakhra or a handful of nuts. Drink 2-3 litres of water because you may confuse thirst and hunger, besides, staying hydrated is crucial for your immunity."
As we were on the topic of immunity, we asked Pooja about the right vitamins to take. She listed four important vitamins, namely B12(1000-1500mg), D3, vitamin C (100mg) and Zinc (20-30 mg). "All these cutoffs are for adults, not children," she explains."Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin I wouldn’t suggest you take a dose without blood investigations. since these are not possible right now, a low dose of 2000 IU/day will keep your immune system healthy and strong.
As a parting piece of advice, she shares, "Sleep is extremely crucial, as is the regularity of waking and sleeping hours. Because we are working from home, we tend to binge watch the television at night and have erratic sleep and wake up timings, which is not a good thing for your immune system. Stick to a routine, for the sake of your immunity and your sanity. Make sure you follow a routine and get 8 hours of sleep every night. Try to follow the circadian rhythm of waking and sleeping hours."