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How to stay invulnerable and healthy- Nutritionist

A nutritionist has recommended people eat more fruits, vegetables and food high in carbohydrates and protein to boost their immune systems to keep diseases at bay.

Suva-based nutritionist and healthy food blogger, Vittoria Pasca, told Samoa Observer that eating a healthy and balanced diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants and dietary fibre will help you strengthen your immune system, which is important to help prevent both communicable and non-communicable diseases (N.C.D.).

“I’ve seen some people trying to sell herbal teas or single foods, claiming that they will make you invulnerable to the coronavirus (COVID-19) or other infectious diseases, and it’s important to stress that this is simply not true,” she said.

“Instead of focusing on one single food, we should follow a healthy diet to strengthen our immune system, while also practising social distancing and good hygiene.”

Emphasising that there is no secret formula to protecting oneself from COVID-19, she said following the advice of health authorities in relation to social distancing rules and hygiene is the best option.

And while Ms Pasca has recommended the increasing consumption of fruit as part of a package to boost immune systems, she acknowledged that the high cost of fruit in the region remains an obstacle to a healthy diet.

She said fruits and vegetables of different colors contain different types of antioxidants, consequently having more colour translates to more strengthening of the immune systems.

“Eating daily at least five portions of fruits and vegetables is extremely important for your health as they contain good quantities of vitamins, antioxidants and dietary fibre and all these nutrients help us strengthen our immune system,” she added.

“Fruits and vegetables of different colours contain different types of antioxidants, so the more colourful the better (purple, red, orange etc).

“Healthy carbs (carbohydrates) are complex carbs that have not (or have minimally) been processed. These include whole grains and starchy crops such as taro, yam, sweet potato, cassava, brown rice, wholemeal flour or oats.”

Ms. Pasca then urged the public to eat more plant-based protein instead, such as lentils, beans, peas, dhal, chickpeas or tofu, which she said contain a similar amount of protein, but no cholesterol and less fat and saturated fat compared with animal protein.

A healthy diet has to be complemented by regular exercise, which she said should be at least 30 minutes a day and sufficient sleep of at least seven hours a day. 

Non-communicable diseases continues to be a major challenge in the Pacific islands but Ms. Pasca says a healthy diet and lifestyle will help prevent N.C.D. diseases.

In addition to following a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, plant protein and healthy carbohydrates, she has also recommended a reduction in the consumption of animal fat and cholesterol (fatty meat, cheese and eggs), salt (chips, snacks and instant noodles) and sugar (fizzy drinks, cookies and cakes). 

Ms. Pasca recently sat and passed the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine certification exams which were held in Suva last week and has been a nutritionist since 2015.

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