One of the simplest ways to ensure that your immune system remains strong and your nutrition remains balanced during the coronavirus pandemic is to trust in numbers. According to Turkish experts, the magical number here is three.
This nutrition model, which is based on the principle that a healthy dining plate should always include vegetables and fruits, dictates this: In every main meal, you should divide your plate into three categories of food groups. One quarter of the plate should consist of vegetables, the other quarter should consist of whole-grain products, and the remaining half should consist of three equal parts of fruits, high protein foods and dairy products.
Leyla Tevfikoğlu Pehlivan, a nutrition and dietetics expert at Trakya University in Turkey's northwestern Edirne province, says she has also been recommending this model to her fasting patients lately.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Pehlivan said that the Turkey Dietary Guidelines also recommend the same approach toward general nutrition, not just in Ramadan.
She underlined that hygiene of the individual and physical environment, keeping the immune system strong, adequate and balanced nutrition, regular physical activity and restful sleep were important in protecting against the pandemic.
"In order to overcome this difficult period as easily as possible, it is important to choose a diet rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for balanced nutrition," Pehlivan said.
The doctor also suggested incorporating a Mediterranean staple into meals every day – high-quality, extra virgin olive oil. Though, like everything, she said oil should be consumed in moderation.
Don't forget vegetable protein
Recommending giving priority to vegetables and fruits over other food groups, Pehlivan said consuming citrus fruits was especially crucial for everyday nourishment.
"If possible, squeeze a bit of fresh lemon into salads and dishes whenever possible. It is also good to keep at home products with longer shelf lives, such as good sources of fiber and minerals like dried fruit, dried okra, eggplant, pepper and tomato," she said.
Pehlivan also said that legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans can be consumed daily, noting that legumes, as great sources of plant-based protein, are full of fiber and can be stored for a long time, which makes them ideal in the times we are going through.
Legumes also help balance blood sugar in many diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes, which is another plus, she said.
Consuming fish at least twice a week is also very healthy since animal protein intake is important for a properly functioning immune system, the doctor said, adding that eggs and cheeses were also good foods in terms of quality protein.
Echoing previous advice by experts, Pehlivan, too, urged people to avoid consuming foods high in sugar and salt, and try to stay away from ready-made and processed foods as much as possible.