From asymptomatic to long ICU stays, Covid-19 has impacted and infected people in different ways. As with any other illness, nutrition will play an important role in recovery, says the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (Adsa).
You are what you eat. Good nutrition can help to avoid risks of complications and shorten your recovery time, the organisation says.
Spokesperson and registered dietician Omy Naidoo notes that people recovering from the virus may still be experiencing health issues.
He says, “Covid symptoms such as the loss of taste and smell can persist for quite some time, and these senses have a major impact on appetite. Chronic fatigue, weight loss, loss of muscle mass and general weakness are common too.
“The main goal of recovery nutrition is to provide enough of the nutrients that support healing and, therefore, a loss of appetite is a challenge that needs to be addressed.”
Strategising post-covid nutrition
Naidoo points out that different strategies may be necessary if you or your recovering family member is experiencing a chronic loss of appetite.
“Oral nutrition supplement drinks may be necessary if the person is unable to consume enough protein and calories each day.”
“Good quality oral nutrition supplement drinks are easy to consume, and they contain a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat and necessary micronutrients.”
Naidoo’s general nutrition tips
- When fighting an infection, the body needs more energy and more fluids. Eat a variety of foods every day to ensure balanced nutrition.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, and include plant-based meals to ensure optimal intake of immune-supporting vitamins and minerals.
- Make whole grains and high fibre foods (which includes veg, fruit and salads) part of most meals.
- Drink plenty of clean safe water as adequate hydration is essential to recovery, and focus on hydration particularly if you are still experiencing symptoms such as fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.
- In the case of muscle mass loss, focus on a high protein diet to support muscle recovery. Good sources of protein include lean chicken, eggs, dairy, and fish as well as legumes and pulses such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
- Limit sugary foods and drinks, highly processed and fast foods.
Tips for survivors with diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- Pay attention to your glucose control. Regular control will manage complications caused by low and high glucose levels.
- It is important to eat small frequent meals, for instance, three meals a day and healthy snacks like nuts in between, to avoid any fluctuations of glucose levels. Fluctuations in blood glucose predisposes to serious complications and most commonly diabetes ketoacidosis.
- An ideal diet is high in fibre, whole grains, legumes with plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Avoid sugar and unhealthy fats, reduce salt intake, and reduce high fat and processed meat products.
- Foods that support immunity and reduce inflammation are important for the heart. Focus on vegetables and fruits of different colours to provide a spectrum of vitamins and minerals to support the immune system.
- Infections such as Covid-19 contribute to a rise in blood sugar, therefore, you must ensure you drink sufficient fluids – clean safe water is best.
- It is important not to overwork and to get a good night’s sleep.