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Diet plan post covid for Heart and Diabetes patients

Covid infection can impact our nutritional status in various ways. Some individuals experience fatigue, hairfall, impaired gut health, fuzzy thinking, short term memory loss, increased palpitations, irregular or lack of sleep etc while some individuals experience mild post covid symptoms. Individuals with comorbidities like existing health issues have more complications. But the good news is that these symptoms can be temporary, if we maintain a well balanced diet along with adequate hydration levels. An individual’s nutritional status plays a critical role in the immune function and recovery from covid.

Diabetes and Heart friendly Meals and Snacks 

We should aim for high protein and a fiber rich diet post covid recovery. For breakfast, fermented and protein rich foods like idli, dosa, ragi or oats uttapam, besan cheela, thepla are healthy options because they improve our gut health and also add protein and fiber. Oats or millet with milk for breakfast are also fiber rich and low GI (Glycemic index) meals. Glycemic index is an indicator of how quickly our food will get absorbed and cause sugar spikes. Foods which increase sugar spikes slowly or gradually are called low GI foods and are diabetes and heart friendly. Khichadi, daal and rice, quinoa bowl, fruit bowl, multigrain chapati with lentil or pulses and vegetables are healthy too. People often ask about eggs. Research shows that upto 6-7 whole eggs a week or 1 whole egg a day does not impact cholesterol or blood sugars. Red meat should be consumed once a week only as they are rich in fat. Lean meat, fish or poultry can be consumed 2-3 times a week. Chicken breast filets, thigh filets, fish filets, baked fish, chicken soup, fish chowder are better options when compared to chicken legs and chicken wings.

Snack on fruits and nuts, fresh vegetable juices, green tea, herbal teas, homemade protein ladoos made with nuts and dates, sattu water, lemon water, black tea and black coffee.

Fasting post covid

Fasting is an ancient long practice which has been followed across many cultures. Some people still continue to do fasts like Ekadashi, Ramadan, Navratri etc. Fasting is restricting food for a certain period of time and if we follow the plan wisely, post recovery people can follow it. People with Type 2 Diabetes, blood pressure, high cholesterol or if overweight can follow time restrictive fast like Intermittent fast or 5:2 Diet plan (restricting calories for 2 days a week) safely. Fasting practice helps in our body to heal and reduce inflammation. The only exceptions are People with type 1 Diabetes, or Diabetes medications like insulin secretagogues should be careful of not restricting their meals with carbohydrates.

Specific nutrients for heart health

Plant based foods are rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, anthocyanins, lycopene, zeaxanthin, lutein which reduce inflammation in our body. Plant foods like fruits and vegetables have fiber which reduce LDL cholesterol. Evidence suggests that use of turmeric with black pepper is beneficial in reducing inflammation. Amla powder or fresh amla reduce LDL cholesterol. Nitrate rich foods like green leafy vegetables, beetroot, cabbage forms nitric oxide and increases blood supply to the heart. Addition of nuts like walnuts, cashews (yes, you read it right), almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds helps in reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, adds proteins, iron and essential minerals like zinc, selenium, vitamin E which improves cellular functioning. Omega 3 fatty acids in plant sources like flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts should be consumed in a powder form, as the omega 3 value increases in powder form. Plants are also rich in vitamin C which helps in boosting immunity.

There are some key nutrients which are essential for recovery, these are vitamin b12 and vitamin D. Due to constant use of antibiotics and lack of adequate diet, gut health can be impaired during an infection. Also, prolonged use of medication can reduce absorption of vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Vitamin b12 is important for nerve function and homocysteine levels. Gut friendly foods like idli, dhokla, kanji, buttermilk, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, uthappam, dosa are also rich in vitamin b12.

Substitute sugar with natural sweeteners like jaggery, coconut sugar, dates, stevia instead of using brown or white sugar, upto 5gm a day only.

Role of Alcohol

Many people indulge in drinking alcohol post covid. Alcohol should definitely be avoided during the recovery phase. Many people think that alcohol can boost immunity but that is certainly not the case. Alcohol gives empty calories which means it gives no health benefits whatsoever, in fact 1 gm of alcohol gives 7 calories with no significant health benefits. We must note that drinking alcohol in excess can increase visceral fat (abdominal fat), blood sugars, triglycerides and blood pressure. Alcohol can increase the risk of developing complications by putting on weight, increasing triglycerides (blood fats) and increasing blood pressure. Alcohol can also make it more difficult to manage your diabetes. A standard drink of not more than 3-4 standard drinks for men and 1-2 standard drinks for women should be consumed per setting, with 2-3 days alcohol free days.

A standard drink is 285mL regular beer, 60mL fortified wine, 100mL wine, 30mL spirits or a 425mL low alcohol beer (less than 3% alcohol).

If someone is taking insulin or certain diabetes tablets, you are at risk of alcohol-related hypoglycemia (‘hypos’) which can be dangerous.

Foods to avoid

Many patients are on blood thinner post covid, for example, coumadin or warfarin. These patients must avoid consuming grapefruits, soy products and excess amounts of vitamin K like green leafy vegetables and soy and soy products. If they are on blood thinners, they should consult their doctors about what quantities such foods need to be consumed.

Fried foods, sugar drinks, carbonated drinks and alcohol should be avoided not only during the recovery phase but throughout in order to stay fit and healthy.

Along with a nutritional adequate diet, individuals must also have a good hydration status. 

About the Author

Swati is an Author, FIT India Ambassador, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Accredited Sports Dietitian, Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, an Accredited Anthropometrist, and a Registered Yoga Teacher. Swati is an Australian Indian, currently residing in India.

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