What to eat when infected with Covid-19
Your head is pounding, your throat is sore. You have a persistent cough and you feel very tired. You may not be able to smell and taste your food.
Yes, you are one of the many people around the world who have contracted Covid-19.
The temptation is to order, snack locked in your room, or maybe have a drink or two.
If you want to feel better and recover, hold your horses.
Dietitians say there are better food choices.
Three, National University Polyclinics (NUP), Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and Changi General Hospital (CGH), advocate sticking to a balanced diet.
NUP Registered Dietitian Bernice Tan says, “We always recommend that patients eat a healthy, balanced diet and encourage them to eat meals consisting of whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, to boost energy and facilitate rapid recovery.
“However, they may not have much of an appetite due to lack of energy and existing symptoms which may affect their usual food intake. The texture of food can be changed to help them eat better, especially if they are not still not feeling well.
She says food can be cooked longer to make it softer and easier on the throat. Some examples include rice porridge, soup noodles, fish, cooked meat, tofu, eggs, and soft fruits like papaya, banana, and watermelon.
Some fried and high-fat foods, she adds, pass through the gastrointestinal tract too quickly and can cause diarrhea. Or they can stay in the stomach longer and cause bloating.
The combination of acids in spicy foods can also cause a burning sensation in the throat and stomach.
It is also advisable to avoid ultra-processed foods such as chocolates, sweets, ice cream and crisps as they are low in nutrients.
“Remember that the body needs nutrients to recover,” she adds.
CGH dietitian Tan Ying Xin says it’s not uncommon for people who recover from the virus to have a reduced sense of taste and smell.
She says: “It may affect their appetite as the food may be perceived as blander than usual. Combined with the discomfort of a sore throat and/or cough, a patient may end up forgetting their healthy eating habits. “
For example, some may increase the amount of sauces or salt in foods to compensate for the lack of taste. Excessive sodium intake, unfortunately, can increase blood pressure and the risk of hypertension, she warns.
When people with Covid-19 stay home to recover, she notes there may be a higher tendency to use food delivery services or consume more overly processed foods, such as instant noodles, canned cream soup or long-lasting pastries.
“It will increase salt and saturated fat intake,” she says.
Chow Pek Yee, head of KTPH’s nutrition and dietetics department, adds that hydration is important to replace lost fluids, prevent a dry throat and avoid triggering a cough.
She suggests adding lemon, berries, or mint leaves to flavor the water, if water alone is deemed too simple or boring.
CGH’s Tan notes that there has been a lot of hype about drinking coconut water after vaccination and during recovery from Covid-19.
“There is no evidence, however, that coconut water will cure any of Covid-19,” she says.
“Drinks such as coconut water and isotonic drinks contain electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, and may benefit someone who is deficient due to excessive fluid loss from diarrhea.
“But keep in mind that they still contain carbs, sometimes in the form of added sugar. Avoid consuming excessive amounts. Plain water is still the best form of hydration,” she advises.
Dietitians are also offering practical advice for people who want to manage their diet well, while recovering from the virus.
NUP’s Tan says people who are struggling to eat their usual food portions can eat healthy snacks two to three hours after their main meals, to make sure they’re getting enough nutrients.
It offers a slice of wholemeal bread with soft margarine, jam without added sugar or low-fat cheese; a cup of warm low-fat milk or low-sugar, high-calcium soy milk; or a small tub of low-fat yogurt.
CGH’s Tan also suggests buying thinly sliced meat, which thaws and cooks quickly. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C and can be eaten on their own or used to flavor water and salad dressing, she says.
Also consider increasing the protein content of foods by cooking with milk, which can be used in place of water when cooking oats, or used to soak oats overnight in the refrigerator to breakfast the next day.
She adds: “Now that people are spending longer periods of time at home, it’s good to take the opportunity to prepare healthier meals or explore recipes that they didn’t have time to make before.
“Plan ahead and take advantage of food delivery platforms to also deliver fresh ingredients such as vegetables, meat and poultry.”
In the long term, however, it will take more than eating healthy to boost the immune system to be Covid-19 free.
KTPH’s Chow says, “To ensure our immune systems are healthy all year round, we need to make sure we eat well, get a balanced diet and get enough sleep, and manage stress.
She and other dietitians champion the Health Promotion Board’s My Healthy Plate concept. The idea here is to have half a plate of vegetables, a quarter plate of high-protein foods, and a quarter plate of whole grains.
She adds, “Eat at least two servings of fruit a day and stay hydrated. At Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, our five pillars of health are: eating wisely, exercising regularly, being happy, quitting smoking and practicing good hygiene. »
Foods to help you heal
Tan Ying Xin, a dietitian at Changi General Hospital, suggests these foods to help Covid-19 patients recover:
1. Lean animal proteins like meat, poultry, and seafood.
2. Eggs, which are a versatile source of vitamin A and protein.
3. Citrus fruits, rich in vitamin C.
4. Unsweetened milk fortified with vitamin D.
5. Nuts and seeds, which are sources of vitamin E.
Foods to Avoid
Bernice Tan, registered dietitian at National University Polyclinics, suggests avoiding the following:
1. Fried and high fat foods such as fatty cuts of meat and butter
2. Processed meat
3. Ultra-processed foods
4. Spicy food like mala dishes or dishes with chili
5. Alcohol, as it irritates the stomach lining, causing indigestion and making patients more nauseous.
THE STRAITS TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK