Eating a healthy diet is important during the COVID-19 pandemic as food and drink can affect the body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO said this in a statement on Monday from Geneva.
It said that no food or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, adding that healthy diets are important for supporting immune systems.
“Good nutrition can also reduce the likelihood of developing other health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer,” it said.
WHO said that for babies, a healthy diet means exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months, with the introduction of nutritious and safe foods to complement breastmilk from six months to two years and beyond.
“For young children, a healthy and balanced diet is essential for growth and development. For older people, it can help to ensure healthier and more active lives,” it said.
The health agency gave tips for maintaining a healthy diet, stressing that consumption of a variety of food, including fruits and vegetables was nutritious.
“Every day, eat a mix of whole grains like wheat, maize and rice, legumes like lentils and beans, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, with some foods from animal sources like meat, fish, eggs and milk.
“Choose whole-grain foods like unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice when you can; they are rich in valuable fibre and can help you feel full for longer.
“For snacks, choose raw vegetables, fresh fruit, and unsalted nuts,” it said.
It advised that salt intake should be reduced, adding that it should be limited to five grammes, equivalent to a teaspoon a day.
WHO advised that moderate amounts of fats and oils should be eaten, saying that replace butter, ghee and lard with healthier fats like olive, soy, sunflower or corn oil when cooking.
“Choose white meats like poultry and fish which are generally lower in fats than red meat; trim meat of visible fat and limit the consumption of processed meats.
“Select low-fat or reduced-fat versions of milk and dairy products; and avoid processed, baked and fried foods that contain industrially-produced trans-fat.
“Try steaming or boiling instead of frying food when cooking,” it said.
WHO added that intake of sweets and sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks, fruit juices, liquid and powder concentrates, flavoured water, energy and sports drinks, ready-to-drink tea and coffee and flavoured milk drinks should be limited.
“Choose fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes and chocolate. When other dessert options are chosen, ensure that they are low in sugar and consume small portions.
“Avoid giving sugary foods to children. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods given to children under two years of age, and should be limited beyond that age,” it said.
The health agency advised that people should stay hydrated by drinking enough water, adding that good hydration was crucial for optimal health.
“Drinking water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages is a simple way to limit your intake of sugar and excess calories,” it said.
It advised people to avoid hazardous and harmful alcohol use, stressing that alcohol was not part of healthy diet.
“Drinking alcohol does not protect against COVID-19 and can be dangerous,” it warned.
WHO maintained that frequent or excessive alcohol consumption increases an immediate risk of injury, as well as causing longer-term effects like liver damage, cancer, heart disease and mental illness.
“There is no safe level of alcohol consumption,” it said.