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Readily available, Infection-fighting foods you need during this Pandemic
The pandemic is the best time for us to live healthy; adequate rest, healthy eating, drinking lots of water, adequate fresh air and exercise.
In the battle against Covid-19, prevention is better than cure. Since there is no cure for the coronavirus, the only way to prevent it, according to experts, is to eat food that boosts your immunity.
Prevention does not always work, and should you fall sick, eating the right food is still one of the ways to beat the disease. Research shows those with a higher level of immunity have a speedy recovery rate.
In his briefings, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has been urging Kenyans to eat healthy and exercise to beat Covid-19. “As we continue with the fight against Covid-19, I want to emphasise the importance of nutrition, hydration and physical activity. Consumption of a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activities, help to strengthen our immune systems,” said Kagwe.
However, how many Kenyans can manage a balanced diet at this time when some have lost their jobs and others no longer make as much income as they used to?
And with the price of food having gone up, many families have been worried about how to put nutritious, but affordable food on their tables.
How then can Kenyans eat healthy at a price they can afford and what are some of the locally available, cheap foods that can boost immunity?
HealthyNation got in touch with nutritionists who advised on what food Kenyans can eat to boost their immunity as countries wait for the most promising vaccine trials to take off and, hopefully, yield a cure.
Dr Jane Ambuko, a senior lecturer and head of horticulture at University of Nairobi’s Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection, said a balanced diet and good nutrition were not only important as a source of energy for our active lives, but were also critical for defence against diseases.
While there is no cure for Covid-19 and there is no guarantee that any food can prevent the disease, Dr Ambuko said a nutritious diet rich in protective foods can boost one’s immunity.
On what constitutes a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet, Dr Ambuko advised on foods rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water, but in variable amounts.
While it is important to ensure an adequate amount of all the food groups for a healthy life, Dr Ambuko said protective foods, especially fruits and vegetables, had a special function. However, they often are not consumed in adequate amounts.
“One is required to eat fruits and vegetables daily to maintain good health. Deficiencies, excesses and imbalances in these nutrients are the cause of various forms of malnutrition and high chances of low immunity,” said Dr Ambuko.
Dr Gladys Mugambi, a nutritionist and Health ministry’s head of the Health Promotion division, told HealthyNation that all food rich in Vitamin C was important in helping the body to fight infections such as Covid-19.
“Our immune cells have a high need for vitamin C when they are working hard to fight infection, so if you find yourself with symptoms, this is the time to start feeding on fruits and foods that are rich in vitamin C,” advised Dr Mugambi.
It is loaded with vitamin C. Contains an enzyme called papain, which helps in digestion. The fruit contains vitamin B, potassium and folate all of which are beneficial to one’s immune system hence making one’s body thrive while fighting all types of infections.
Cost: A locally sold fruit, which costs between Sh50 to Sh200, depending on where one buys it and size. It is common in most markets in the country.
This immunity superstar booster is mostly used as an additive. It is used in treating the common cold. Garlic contains potassium, calcium and sulphuric compounds that protect against bacteria and infection.
Raw garlic is the most beneficial for health. It lowers pressure and kills parasites in our body while decreasing nausea, vomiting and inflammation which can reduce sore throat, the flu, common cold, joint pains and many other diseases. It helps the immune system function optimally by boosting it when it is underactive or suppressing it when it is overactive. It can also help fight drug resistance.
Cost: Garlic can be found locally and goes for Sh30 each.
Minerals, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E are all contained in broccoli, which also has anti-oxidants and fibres. Vitamin E helps to boost one’s immune response. Should you want to preserve its rich nutrients, broccoli is best eaten when steamed.
Cost: Not every family can afford broccoli, which goes for between Sh100 and Sh200 a bunch.
With an abundance of vitamins and minerals, it is obvious why spinach makes it to this list. Due to all its healthy benefits, spinach has the ability to boost your immune system. It has a high dose of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, which help fight off infections as well as replenish the blood cells to boost the immune system. These leafy greens contain flavonoids that help to prevent the common cold in otherwise healthy people. You get the most benefit out of spinach when you steam it.
Cost: With as little as Sh10, you can buy a bunch of spinach. How much you spend in total, however, depends on the size of your family.
According to a study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, people who consume mushrooms everyday have a significant increase in the numbers and strength of immunity-boosting T-cells.
The researchers also noticed a reduction in inflammatory-inducing proteins, proving that Shiitake mushrooms also act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Cost: These are seasonal and are locally available. They go for Sh100 a punnet.
Vegetables (kale, traditional vegetable, carrots)
They are a great source of Vitamin A and the minerals that strengthen the body’s immune system and help it to operate optimally. They need to be consumed with fat or oil, so that the vitamin can be well absorbed. Avoid overcooking. You should maintain their green colour, so that you do not lose the vitamins.
Cost: A bunch of kale or traditional vegetables can go for between Sh25 and Sh30. Carrots are cheaper and you can buy a handful at Sh10.
These fruits are packed with Vitamin C, an essential nutrient when you are feeling under the weather. According to a review conducted by the National Center for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, Vitamin C is helpful in preventing the common cold for people exposed to sickness-inducing environments such as cold weather. It can also help lower the duration and severity of a cold.
Cost: Most local markets sell oranges for Sh10 each.
A great food to eat when you are sick due to its high concentration of Vitamin C. Just one medium tomato contains more than 16 milligrams of Vitamin C, which is a proven fuel to your body’s immune system.
Cost: Currently, the price of tomatoes has shot up, with traders selling them at between Sh15 and Sh20 each.
Whole grain bread
It contains anti-inflammatory properties, which allows for an increase in production of healthy bacteria, according to a study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Seventy per cent of your immune system lives in your gut, so it is important to keep it healthy if you want to fend off any cold-causing germs.
Cost: A loaf of whole grain bread cost about Sh100.
An egg a day, especially the yolks, can keep infection away. Eggs are rich in immunity-boosting nutrients. Eggs contain a high amount of Vitamin D, which is vital in regulating and strengthening immunity. According to a study published in the journal JAMA, participants who took a daily serving of eggs were less likely to catch a cold or any other upper respiratory tract infection.
Cost: An egg costs Sh13.
Besides increasing our consumption of the protective foods, we must drink water regularly and stay hydrated. It is recommended that one drinks at least eight glasses of water a day to keep yourself fully hydrated.
Cost: The cost of clean, drinking water depends on availability. In some of Kenya’s urban and rural areas, finding clean water is a challenge.
Water protects the body from dehydration, allowing every cell to function and fight at peak performance.
So, stay healthy, stay safe!
Source: Daily Nation