ANKARA, TURKEY: As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, people continue to quarantine themselves in their homes, but experts say lack of physical activity and poor eating habits pose risks to their health.
We should keep in mind that a healthy and balanced diet will strengthen our immune system and protect us, says Vedat Goral, a gastroenterologist at Medipol Mega University Hospital in Istanbul.
Goral emphasised that the first thing we need to focus on while staying at home is actually where we eat.
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“Consume your meals at the table. Do not eat on the sofa, in the bedroom or at the computer because you may consume more than you need without realising how much you eat. This behaviour model can lead to weight gain and even chronic ailments,” he said.
Shopping habits are also important, said Goral, adding when curfews or states of emergencies are declared, people tend to buy pasta from the market, which is cheap. But pasta is not an ideal meal due to its high calories and low nutritional value.
He recommended that instead of pasta, people should consume high-fibre and high-protein foods and vegetables and fruits.
Goral noted that among the foods that should not be forgotten every day are Vitamin D and calcium-rich milk, eggs, yoghurt and cheese.
“Vitamin C, which is one of our most basic health preservatives, has an important place in our lives. As for fruit, you can consume apples, oranges and all citrus fruits.”
For those who do not eat meat, he suggested eating legumes daily such as green peas, red lentils, chickpeas and red beans as an alternative.
Stressing that a healthy and balanced diet will not be enough, Goral said this program should be supported with exercise.
“We should consume sugary drinks that increase blood sugar rapidly, white bread, pastries and processed meat products that are eaten at breakfast and foods containing excess salt to a minimum,” he said.
He also warned about staying away from alcohol and cigarettes, especially during these stressful times.
Gizem Gencyurek, a dietitian at Medipol Pendik University Hospital in Istanbul, also drew attention to the risk that stress may cause someone to eat more due to being inactive.
To prevent this, it is possible to follow healthy eating and lifestyle rules that are not really difficult, said Gencyurek.
“The first of these is a balanced diet: We should include four basic food groups that we can count as meat, milk, grains and fruits and vegetables, especially in main meals such as breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she said.
Drinking water is another important thing that should not be forgotten, Gencyurek said, adding strengthening the immune system is also very important.
She pointed out that it is useful to take multivitamin and probiotic supplements.
“We should choose healthy alternatives instead of packed, processed and sugary products. For example, instead of potato chips while watching movies, people can eat popcorn, or instead of soda, you can drink milk with turmeric.”
Gencyurek emphasised that it is necessary to be as active as possible at home and exercises can be done using videos online.
During quarantines, hygiene and sleep patterns are quite important alongside nutrition for a healthy body, she added.
She reminded that rooms should be well ventilated and hands should be washed frequently with soap.
After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 170 countries and territories.
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The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 472,000 while the death toll stands at over 21,300 and more than 114,800 have recovered, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Despite the rising number of cases, most of those who contract the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery.