Food & Drinks

What foods to eat to boost your immunity

Turmeric Ginger Lemon Shots
Turmeric ginger and lemon shots -Perfect as healthy immune system boost in small glass bottles displayed next to the ingredients. PHOTO | COURTESY  

George Bernard Shaw once said that “there is no sincerer love than the love for food.”

As we stay home to flatten the curve during these Covid-19 times, it is important to demystify fact from fiction as far as our food intake goes. It is with this in mind we sought the help of Jasper Oloo, Consultant Dietician at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi. Here’s what he had to say.

Given the measures to stay home, a few of us make jokes about eating everything in the pantry well before the quarantine period is over. Are there any tips you would give to our readers as far as diet is concerned?

The quarantine period has created anxiety on the masses and people respond to anxiety or stress in different ways. Some end up having increased appetite while to others the appetite would be reduced or depressed. The sight of food or the smell of food also triggers the urge to eat.

It is therefore important to note that different foods have different effects on our bodies. During this time of quarantine, we need to consider two things as far as our diets are concerned: We should eat to help our bodies have strong immunities by ensuring that we eat enough of the macronutrients (Carbohydrates, proteins and fats), and the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) We should avoid excess intake and deficiencies of the macronutrients and micronutrients


How do we maintain a healthy weight, BMI whilst staying indoors?

To maintaining healthy weight, there must be an equilibrium between calories consumed and calories expended. This can be achieved by restricting the amount of calories consumed, and by increasing activity to expend or burn the calories. In restricting the calories consumed, it is important to cut down carbohydrate intake since most of the available snacks that people are familiar with are carbohydrate in nature. In cutting down carbohydrates it is important to avoid sugar and foods with added sugar. Snacks should comprise of fruits, nuts and plenty of water instead on sugary drinks and carbohydrate based snacks. Families can adopt simple exercise regimens that can be done at home like pushups, squats, rollers among others that would help burn some energy and help in building muscle mass.

Any meal plans a healthy person could follow? Meal plans are usually individualised because caloric requirements differ from person to person and food choices also vary from person to person. But generally, it is advisable to ensure that your main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) comprise of starches, proteins, fats and vegetables. You also need to avoid wide gaps between meals and your snacks should comprise of nuts, protein based foods, and fruits instead of carbohydrate based foods and sugary drinks. It is also important to drink adequate amounts of water that is at least eight glasses of water every day, unless you have a medical condition that requires you to restrict fluid intake.

How can we boost our immunity?

The immunity of an individual can be affected by several factors. The best way of boosting immunity is through immunization. The foods we eat can also help us have strong immunity. A strong immunity is built by a balanced, adequate, moderated and varied diet. The diet must contain adequate proteins to help build the antibodies. We also need vitamins like vitamin A, C, E and D as well as micronutrients like zinc, selenium, iron for the immune system to function well. The right combination of omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids is also important for the immune system to function optimally. Probiotics (the good bacteria and fungi that lives in the human body naturally) are also known to help in enhancing the functioning of the immune system.

Exercise and good sleep are also known to play a role in enhancing immunity.

Overactive immune system can also lead to autoimmune diseases; hence it is not advisable to aim at boosting immunity.

How does stress impact our digestive system?

Other than affecting appetite and food intake, stress leads to increased secretion of acid in most people. The acid is usually meant to help in digestion of proteins in the stomach. If the acid is release excessively, it might end up digesting the walls of the stomach hence leading to ulcers. Increased acid can also lead to increased gas production hence feeling of pain, bloating and sometimes diarrhoea.