Therapeutic Diets for COVID Patients

Dr. Vasanta Kohli
Optimum Nutrition and Healthy balanced diets is an important Therapy for treating COVID patients. A well balanced diet provides stronger immune system and reduce the risk of chronic illness and infectious diseases.
Including the right kind of foods, in the right amounts is important for our health and also to boost immune system that makes the body strong to fight the disease.
A low carb, high protein diet is recommended and include vegetables and fruits which are rich in Vitamin-C and other essential Anti-Oxidants. Include a combination of different foods like whole grains and complex carbohydrates to provide the required energy for the body. Avoid refined Flour like Maida and use only multigrain flour, avoid taking too refined and polished rice, provide calories and carbohydrates through complex carbs. Avoid refined sugar and sugary drinks and glucose, as the virus survive and grow on the sugar and glucose. During high fever and illness, patient may not be able to eat our customary chapattis and Rice, hence provide semisolid, liquid diet in the form of thin Kichadi, Dhaliya, Porridge, Custard Jelly, Soups etc. Try to avoid sweets and sugar as for as possible.
Patient needs good amount of protein to maintain the tissues and strength of the body. 1 to 1.5 gm protein per Kg body weight has to be given. The required amount of protein can be provided by including eggs, cheese or paneer, milk, chicken, fish, meat etc. for non-vegetarians and by including different type of pulses and beans, milk, cheese, paneer in vegetarian diets.
The preparation method has to be modified as per the condition of the patient – if the patient can take normal consistency food, prepare the food in the conventional way, otherwise modify to boiled or scrambled egg, soups, pureed form as per the patient’s ability to consume food.
Plenty of vegetables may be included in the diet for example in each major meal include one softly cooked vegetable – vegetables can be given in the form of blenderized soup also. This will provide required vitamins and minerals.
To get required amount of Vitamin-C and other anti-oxidants, fruits like melons, apple, orange or any other seasonal and locally grown fruit should be included – WHO recommends consuming a minimum of 400 gms i.e. 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
If the patient is unable to take fruits due to indigestion or distention of the stomach, fruits juices, electrolytes and coconut water may be given. Avoid soft drinks and other sugar syrup drinks.
Certain seeds and nuts like sunflower seeds, flaxseed, pumpkins seeds, melon seeds, almonds, walnut, cashew nuts are excellent source of protein and vitamin-E. Certain foods like mushroom, tomato, bell pepper and green vegetables like spinach, broccoli are also good options to build immunity in the body against infections. Nutritional supplements rich in omega 3 & 6 fatty acids are also good to build up immunity. Some natural immunity supplements include ginger, amla and turmeric which are common in our Indian dishes and snacks. There are several herbs that help in boosting immunity like Garlic, basil leaves and black cumin. It is advisable to take nutritional supplements like Vitamin-C to enhance immunity and as a powerful antioxidant and protects against damage induced by oxidative stress.
Vitamin-D has a mild protective effect against respiratory track infections- Zinc is vital component of WBC which fights infections. Zinc deficiency often makes one more susceptible to flue and common cold and other viral infections.
Turmeric and Garlic: The bright yellow spice Turmeric contains a compound called Curcumin which boost immune function. Garlic has a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties which enhance body immunity. Turmeric milk or golden milk cab be given to the parents. Garlic roasted and boiled in the milk also can be given to the patient.
Drink 8 to 10 glass of luke warm water every day – can consume lemon tea, fruit juices, vegetable soups, tea etc. to maintain the hydration. Avoid sweetened fruit juices, syrups and other sugary drinks.
Consume moderate amounts of fat and oil. Avoid fried and processed food. Eat less salt and sugar. When cooking and preparing food, limit the amount of salt and high sodium condiments like sauces. Limit the salt intake to less than 5 gm which is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. Avoid foods, snacks that are high in salt and sugar.
Most COVID patients experience loss of smell and taste or difficulty in swallowing. It is important to eat semi-solid, soft or liquid diet at small intervals. Add chutney and pudina, anardana, dry mango powder to boost the taste buds. Avoid vegetable salads, as it may interfere with digestion and can cause stomach distention.
Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, managing stress and getting enough sleep may support the maintenance of health in both children and adults and can be our first line of antiviral defence. Strict hygienic and food safety measures while handling the food must be taken along with social distancing and quarantine protocols recommended by WHO.
Each a variety of home-made foods, including whole grains, lentils, pulses, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetable nuts and seeds and some food from animal sources for non-vegetarians. Probiotics like Yogurt, Yakult and fermented food are good sources to rejuvenate the composition of gut bacteria, which is important for nutrient absorption by the body.
Integrating healthy habits that composes the whole body – mild exercises, meditation and prayers, eating well, getting enough sleep, reduce stress shall able to cope up the infection and help the patient to come out successfully during the pandemic period.
Crash dieting may be discouraged as it affects the general immunity of the body. Maintain the ideal body weight by taking a balanced diet with all the optimum nutrients.
(The author is former HOD, Dietetics & Therapeutics, SKIMS, Srinagar & GMC, Jammu – Presently at BEE ENN General Hospital, Jammu.)