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Building immunity against diseases with balanced diets

The immune system is defined as a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against any kind of infection. It is said…

The immune system is defined as a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against any kind of infection. It is said to keep a record of every germ or bacteria that has ever been defeated, so it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again.

Everyone needs a strong immune system to stay healthy and strong and this can only be achieved through eating balanced diet and shunning consumption of junk, experts say.

A health research stated that every part of the body, including the  immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as avoiding smoking, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, regular exercise and maintenance of healthy weight.

A dietician, Mrs. Sarah Abagi said, the body needs good and balanced nutrition to keep it healthy and strong to fight diseases, bacteria and viruses.

She said at the heat of the COVID-19, other climes were also dealing with flu because of temperate weather while Nigeria dealt with the harmattan which usually comes with cold and dry dusty wind.

“So, it is not uncommon for people to come down with some chest infection and other ailment this time. But as a whole, what a person requires is what we call a balanced nutrition or optimum nutrition,” she said.

The dietician said in most cases, people prefer eating large bowls of food and those that are privileged eat large chunks of meat while the most vital ingredients needed for the body, fruits and vegetables, are often left out of meals.

“In fact, in our situation in Nigeria, most people believe fruits are like snacks that they take occasionally but if we follow the principle of balanced diet, we must eat a minimum of three serving of fruits per day which can be an apple, orange, banana pawpaw, water melon, pineapple, others and we must get them to eat in good quantity,” she added.

Mrs Abagi said by the time you have balanced nutrition, we are sure to stay in good health but to go a step further in this COVID-19 season, people have to go the extra mile and not just do the minimum with fruits and vegetables but go to the maximum by taking extra.

“It is usually a minimum of three servings of fruits per day but you can take it now to five times because you require like nine servings together and this time, because we need more protection, we must do more.

“It is expected that we eat good varieties of fruits and vegetables because as you see them in their different colours so are they in their unique protective ingredients that serve for disease protection and diuretic measures.

“Those red pigments you find in some fruits and vegetables are very powerful antioxidants that the body requires for prevention from disease and strengthening of immunity. We also have the ones that come in orange and brighter colours like pawpaw, carrots and orange, they also carry antioxidants that protect the body from diseases,” Abagi added.

She said every vegetable you see carrying any colour, carries with it enormous nutritional benefits for disease prevention and treatment.

According to her, people must always carry along every food group when planning meals, adding that starches which form the bulk of our diets (rice, semovita, pounded yam and others) provide energy.

“Then meat, our people capitalise a lot on meat but all we need is just the normal market standard of meat or chicken parts and others in our food whenever we are eating the three meals in a day. Or you have an egg in the morning or fish in the evening that you can afford of course, where animal proteins are not available.

“In the meat group we also accommodate legumes such as beans. If we cook beans we are sure to get sufficient protein, especially when you combine it with whole grains which will give you good compliments of protein.”

She also said the body requires milk because it also provides its own vitamins and minerals that help keep the body in good shape; your calcium, B Vitamins, your proteins and others.

“In the milk group you will have yoghurt. In the Northern region we have “nono” which when you take it you have a complement of starch together with milk serving.

“The body needs oil but in limited amounts; just sufficient to make your diet palatable. Eating too much oil is not healthy, just a little to keep your food palatable and give you the nourishment required from that, and as much as possible frying is not a healthy thing to do.”

She advised people to take interest in the use of roots and herbs such as ginger, garlic, celery, turmeric, onions and others saying  they must be part of day-to-day diets for their nutritional benefits to the body.

“We must begin to put ample amount either as powder or fresh in our cooking.  Ginger, turmeric can be used in our teas or for soup, a little in our pepper soup. They help to fortify the body against invasion of disease especially viruses and bacteria because of the zinc content and other organic elements in them,” she said.

She explained that many people’s minds go to “agbo” when herbs are mentioned but that there are many leaves categorised as herbs such as scent leaves, curry leaves, celery and several others according to the region of the country.

“We find that these herbs become healthy in times like this and can help us overcome the health challenges affecting us right now,” she stated.

She said moderation should take centre stage when eating anything and that people should take their diets seriously by taking more fruits and vegetables rather than big bowls of starch as common in this part of the world.

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