Two simple things to keep yourself fighting fit forever
During these troubled times, we have been overwhelmed by advice on how to boost your immunity while staying at home to avoid getting infected by the Coronavirus, or COVID-19.
But the key to ensure your body’s natural immunity levels are functioning at optimum efficiency essentially involves two simple things, a healthy, balanced diet, and some form of exercise. There is no magic pill that can suddenly boost your immunity levels, and you should be extremely wary of any medication that makes such claims.
A healthy diet helps not only protects you against infections by buttressing your immune system, it also staves off several noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular problems and cancer. And this has to be a lifelong process, not something you adopt when faced with a pandemic.
According to the WHO, healthy dietary practices start early in life, right from breastfeeding, which fosters healthy growth and improves cognitive development, and protects you against several communicable and noncommunicable diseases.
There are some basic things which we all know instinctively but tend to ignore while planning our meals. One, unless you are an athlete or a manual labourer, you should be extremely cautiousabout consuming more calories that you burn.
Two, limiting sugar is the best way to protect against diseases that range from dental issues to obesity to cancer. If you have a sweet tooth, use natural sugars like jaggery and organic honey or coconut sugar in your tea and coffee. Bottled colas and juices are deadly, and the leading cause of obesity and heart disease worldwide. Staying hydrated, which means drinking more than three litres of water each day, helps wash toxins out of your system and keeps your skin moist and supple.
Similarly, keeping your salt (or sodium) intake to less than 5 gm a day dramatically reduces the risk of hypertension, heart disease and strokes.
Processed foods, which have additives to keep them from spoiling, are again best had in moderation.
It is also important to remember that there cannot be a universal formula for a balanced diet, because it depends on various factors like your age, gender, physical activity, as well as your cultural and environmental context, including dietary customs.
But there are some basic principles which can be used as a framework to plan your diet.
One, fruits, nuts and vegetables, legumes (lentils/beans/dal) and whole grains should always be preferred to processed foods.
Then there’s fats. According to WHO, “unsaturated fats, (found in fish, avocado, nuts, and in sunflower, soybean, canola and olive oils) are preferable to saturated fats (found in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese, ghee and lard) and trans-fats of all kinds, including both industrially-produced trans-fats (found in baked and fried foods, and pre-packaged snacks and foods, such as frozen pizza, pies, cookies, biscuits, wafers, and cooking oils and spreads) and ruminant trans-fats (found in meat and dairy foods from ruminant animals, such as cows, sheep, goats and camels).”
Exercise too depends on a lot of individual factors, and it does not necessarily always mean hitting the gym with a vengeance or other strenuous activity, although working up a sweat does have considerable benefits. But even simple things like a brisk daily walk, or yoga -which also calms the mind—can work wonders. The trick here is to be regular.
So instead of assiduously trying to beat the coronavirus by trying exotic diets and pills, try these few simple things, not just for now, but as a lifelong habit. You won’t regret it.