Digesting the facts

Updated: Mar 20, 2020, 10:30 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Amidst bunkum about eating meat spreading the virus, experts help dispel myths on what to eat and not

Unless you've been living under a rock, you would have heard about the "gaumutra party" that a religious outfit hosted recently to propagate its belief that drinking cow urine is the best hope we have against a relentless virus that — realistically speaking — even the world's best scientists are still struggling to find a cure for. At the shindig, Swami Chakrapani Maharaj, who presided over the event, extolled the virtues of his favoured drink, claiming that the coronavirus, especially affects those who consume meat. Elsewhere, there are numerous netizens who have confidently proclaimed that consuming Indian staples like garlic and turmeric can "kill" the virus. But both these theories, say experts we spoke to, don't hold water. In fact, when it comes to Maharaj's claim, nutritionist Suman Agarwal tells us flat out, "There are many Indians who have been brought up thinking that gaumutra is 'pavitra'. But I would rather ignore such beliefs than talk about them."

The good diet

Suman AgarwalSuman Agarwal

So what sort of dietary changes should we incorporate to ensure that our immune systems are sufficiently equipped to fight the disease? The trick, say both Agarwal and internal medicine specialist Dr Sudipta Kumar Sen, is to find a right balance between carbohydrates, protein and fibre. Agarwal says, "If you stick to only fruits and veggies and don't include any protein in your meal, then the antibodies in your system will suffer. So if you're a vegetarian, make milk, curd, paneer or moong dal sprouts a part of your breakfast, and combine that with carbs like upma, poha, a sandwich or thepla. Eat daal, a vegetable dish and paneer for lunch and dinner, interspersing it with chana or biscuits and tea in the evening. And non-vegetarians can include eggs or meats like salami for breakfast, and fish or meat for the next two meals."

Stay clear

She adds that right now is not the best time to go on a fad diet, such as the keto one, and that people often disregard the fact that fatty foods help vitamins A, D and K travel better in our body. Sen echoes her, saying that it's also best to avoid all sorts of synthetic food and drinks like colas right now. "Avoid eating anything that can compromise your immune system right now."

Dr Sudipta Kumar Sen
Dr Sudipta Kumar Sen

It's a pertinent point, but what's even more important to note is what Sen says about where we should be keeping an ear out when it comes to seeking health advice.

When we ask him what his thoughts on Maharaj's theory are, he tells us, "Do not pay any heed to unscientific information from non-experts. In India, we have a tendency where people who don't have the slightest knowledge of medicine or science will be free-flowing with advice that others treat as the Gospel. If your body is strong enough to fight this virus, you will survive it. We are also learning more and more about the disease with every passing day. So keep yourself updated at all times."

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