By : Apeksha Thakkar Clinical Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Nutrigenomic Counselor
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                                                 Protein for Covid-19 Management

During this stressful time when the whole world is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on your health has become a priority.

The importance of adequate nutrition cannot be emphasized more than in the current scenario. Proteins, in particular with their role in upgrading your immune system and aiding recovery from COVID-19.

 

During this stressful time when the whole world is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on your health has become a priority. 

The importance of adequate nutrition cannot be emphasized more than in the current scenario. Proteins, in particular with their role in upgrading your immune system and aiding recovery from COVID-19.

COVID - 19 has serious consequences in your body

COVID - 19 is caused by the virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), that mainly affects the respiratory system.

This disease can manifest without symptoms or with mild infection of the upper respiratory tract, while in most severe cases it is characterized by acute respiratory distress syndrome, heart failure, multiple organ failure as the result of acute inflammation.  (https://dx.doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu12051466).

The presence of other chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, hypertension in the patient may worsen the inflammatory response in COVID-19, increasing the risk for mortality. (doi: 10.1038/s41430-020-0664-x)

The Immune System 

Our immune system is our body’s frontline defense mechanism against disease-causing microorganisms and protects us from attacks caused by external bacteria or viruses. 

When our body is exposed to an antigen (virus, bacteria etc.), the immune system releases antibodies to fight them. Without these antibodies, our body cannot fight an invasion by these intruders. (https://dx.doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu12061562)

The Immune System relies on Nutrition 

Optimal Nutrition is crucial for healthy functioning and maintenance of the immune system and reducing inflammation caused by the coronavirus. In particular, adequate Protein intake which is associated with decreased morbidity and mortality in COVID-19.

(https://dx.doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu12061562)

So how does Protein have such a profound influence on COVID-19 outcomes?

Protein is a vital macronutrient that sustains life and plays an important role in boosting immune function. They are the backbone of the body's defense system. 

Proteins are made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of all body cells – including the cells that regulate the immune system. 

For example, glutamine is an important amino acid which is a critical fuel source for immune cells, including white blood cells. (https://dx.doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu10111564)

A diet lacking in protein has a negative effect on immune functions which has major consequences on the defense against infection. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352291/)

Now how much protein should I eat?

For a healthy individual, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 to 1 gm protein per kg body weight per day to meet the basic nutritional requirements.  Source: https://www.nin.res.in/nutrition2020/RDA_short_report.pdf

In a severe COVID crisis, high protein intake is required not just to regulate the immune system but to prevent the loss of muscle mass and function due to the disease. 

The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) recommends providing 1.3 g protein per kg of body weight per day for critically ill COVID-19 patients. (https://dx.doi.org/10.3390%2Fmedicina56060289)

A diet rich in Protein raises immunity level

The essential amino acids which are necessary to build up the immune system cannot be synthesized by the body; it has to be supplied by the diet. 

Several studies have highlighted that protein intake of high biological value (contains all essential amino acids) such as from all animal products like eggs, fish, lean meat (e.g., poultry), and milk and milk products like curd, paneer, whey may reduce inflammation associated with the illness. (https://dx.doi.org/10.3390%2Fjcm9082589)

Protein rich foods like soy, beans and seafood (crab and oysters in particular) and animal food also contain zinc. Zinc is a mineral important for the production of infection-fighting white blood cells. 

Nuts such as walnuts and almonds are good sources of protein, as well as magnesium which have added benefits towards a healthy immune system.

In a vegetarian diet, which lacks one or more essential amino acids, combinations of foods like idli, dosa, Pongal, khichdi, dal rice etc. helps improve the quality of protein.

Also, there are various protein supplements with quality proteins available which can help you meet your protein requirements when diet is not enough.                                                 

Buckwheat for Protein and Immunity

An easy high-quality protein incorporation for vegetarians is Buckwheat. It contains all essential amino acids making it a high-quality protein source. It is also rich in minerals like manganese, magnesium, copper, and zinc, which are vital for a healthy immune system. 

(https://dx.doi.org/10.2174%2F1389202917666160202215425)

(https://dx.doi.org/10.1023%2FA%3A1014097121364)

In various studies it has been observed that dietary supplementation with buckwheat flour appears to have a protective effect on immune cell functions 

(doi:10.1017/S0954422415000190 )

Takeaway

COVID-19 has plunged the world into chaos. The virus is life threatening and not just precautions but a balanced diet is necessary. Certain nutrients, in particular Protein, take the lead in protecting your body from the effect of the virus as they are the building blocks of the immune system. GRD Superior proteins are easy on digestion with good amino acids profile can be included as mid snacks or fillers to balance out protein requirements, required to fight out this dreadful virus.

Make simple tweaks to your diet by including high quality protein sources rich in amino acids and other immune boosting nutrients to help fight infections. Use generously anti-viral foods easily available in our kitchen like garlic, ginger, cloves, tulsi and turmeric to up your immunity. 

Lastly, make it a point to maintain hygiene by washing hands regularly, wear masks in public places and maintain social distancing.

The below recipes can also be tried to fulfil nutrients requirement to fight Covid-19 infection

Buckwheat Dhokla (Serves 4)

A protein rich traditional savory served with a twist!

 

Ingredients

1¼ cup Buckwheat Flour (Kuttu Ka Atta)

½ cup curd

½ tsp green chilli paste

½ tsp ginger paste

Salt to taste

Oil as required

¾ tsp fruit salt

Coriander leaves ,chopped for garnish 

Freshly grated coconut for garnish 

Method

Combine the buckwheat flour, curd, ginger and  chilli paste, coriander leaves, black ,salt in a large mixing bowl  and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes.

Stir in a tablespoon of oil and the fruit salt  into the batter. 

Pour half the batter into a greased thali and spread evenly.

Steam in a steamer for 10-12 minutes or until dhoklas are cooked.

Remove from the steamer and garnish.

Cut into squares and serve with chutney.

Nutritional Information (per serving)

 Energy 

 156 kcal

Carbohydrates

29 gms

Protein

5 gms

Fat

1.9 gm

Fiber

3.8 gms

 

 

 

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