Nigeria: COVID-19 - How Good Nutrition Builds Your Immune System

Fruit and vegetables.

With many people falling ill from COVID-19 and other ailments, experts have advised the public to ensure good nutrition for maximum protection. They said unhealthy diets contribute to pre-existing conditions that put many more at risk.

A Nutritional Health Consultant, and founder of AskDrNne, Dr Nnedimma Iwueke, said nutrition plays a crucial role in overall health and wellbeing.

She said good nutrition ensures the proper functioning of organs and systems of the body while aiding the regrowth and replenishment of body tissues.

She said carbohydrates required for the energy needs of the body, protein needed for a formidable immune system, fats and oils for various functions and vitamins and minerals needed for different processes all contribute to the role of nutrition.

"In the face of the current coronavirus pandemic ravaging the whole world, the importance of proper nutrition is further emphasised. A stronger immune system is essential in resisting the viral infection; therefore, a proper nutrition is a basic need in this battle against COVID-19."

Dr Iwueke said in fortifying the immune system, good nutrition helps to provide the building blocks of body cells that play important roles in immunity.

"For instance, antibodies are proteins that help in the recognition and elimination of viruses and infectious microorganisms from the body while macrophages attack and destroy viral particles. Similarly, certain food components such as Vitamin D boost the immune system against viruses and even some types of cancer."

The nutrition expert also said for a healthy diet during this coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises on the need for a combination of strategies which includes adequate amount of water, sufficient amount of fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, moderate amount of fats and oils; preferably unsaturated fats, limiting sugar and salt as well as eating at home to avoid contact with crowds.

"Alcohol and drug abuse should be avoided during this period as they also weaken the immune system. Those that consume alcohol should desist and consume more of vegetables and fruits to help them build strong immune system against any form of disease.

She said all forms of canned and carbonated drinks and fruit juices contain large amounts of sugar and should be avoided because such drinks significantly increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and others.

Dr Iwueke also advised that fruits be taken in their fresh form and that vegetables should not be overcooked to ensure that nutritional contents were intact to supply vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." The notion that nutritious and safe diets support good health has been around at least since antiquity, as this quote, often mis-attributed to Hippocrates

Let not thy food be confused with thy medicine: The Hippocratic misquota...

The link between food and health has been documented since Antiquity.

What to eat and not to eat regularly grab news headlines, as consumers try to balance scientific advice and marketing trends with their own culinary traditions, pocketbooks, and local food options.

"Now, with so many people falling ill from the COVID-19, unhealthy diets are contributing to pre-existing conditions that put them more at risk. And in much of the world, illness also means loss of income," she said.

The Founder and Product Developer, Moepelorse Bio Resources, Mojisola Karigidi, said as the coronavirus death toll continues to rise all over the world, it is definitely not a good time to visit the hospital for mild, non-COVID-19 conditions, adding that, "To the best of everyone's ability, whether in Africa or elsewhere, it is crucial to maintain good health to avoid the risk of exposure to the disease."

She said the nature of COVID-19 highlights the need to strengthen the immune system to limit the severity of the disease in the event that one is at risk of infection even as we maintain distance from other people, regularly wash hands and maintain general hygiene.

"The role of the immune system, which involves several interconnected parts like the white blood cells, antibodies, spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and lymphocytes, among others - is to protect the body against diseases.

Studies have revealed that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables can keep one healthy and prevent sicknesses from becoming severe. Orange, grape, carrot, apple, banana, leafy greens are rich in vitamins, and are important for proper immune function. Malnutrition can impair the body's ability to fight infections and illnesses, thereby, increasing the risk of death from diseases, including COVID-19.

Mrs Chuka Helen said the vegetable garden she cultivates within her compound has been helping her and her family over the years. She said it enables her feed her family with fresh and healthy meals.

She said she learnt from her parents that vegetables and fruits were good for the body and always included them in their meals.

"We also have lots of vegetables in our compound so, I get used to planting them wherever I live for my family consumption but for fruits, we buy from the market."

Experts said good nutrition means eating varieties of food that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have energy. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals. It also means considering balance, variety and moderation in everything that you eat.

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