Fasting during the Covid-19 pandemic is a challenge for Muslims. However, UGM nutritionist R. Dwi Budiningsari, SP., M. Kes., Ph.D., said that fasting is beneficial to the immune system or immunity.
“Severa; studies say fasting can increase immunity. Vice versa, there have been no studies that state fasting increases the risk of Covid-19 infection,” she explained on Thursday (4/23).
The Head of the Health Nutrition Study Program of the Faculty of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing (FKKMK) UGM said that fasting could repair damaged cell tissues. By fasting for 30 days can stimulate the production of new white blood cells. It underlies the regeneration of the entire immune system. Conditions with the regenerated immune system will further strengthen the body in warding off various bacterial and viral infections and other diseases.
She explained that the quality and quantity of nutritional intake immensely influenced the body’s immunity. People who experience malnutrition will be very vulnerable to Covid-19 infection. Meanwhile, for well-nourished people, having sufficient energy needs, having great potential to destroy the Covid-10.
In general, there are three nutritional intake functions used by the human body. First, being a source of energy is the main priority used by the body. Second, the regulatory service is to regulate the body to be healthy and fit, including immune function. Third, the growth function is the last priority functioned if the first two functions fulfilled.
Not only does it enhance immunity, but fasting also helps detoxify the body. During fasting can help remove various poisons that are stored in the body—for example, addictive substances in food such as preservatives and food coloring.
Fasting can also reduce body fat mass. Excess fat in the body can damage the balance of the human immune system. Because the excess fat will trigger cell production, which causes inflammation of the body’s organs, triggering the emergence of vascular disease and other health problems.
“For them who excesses fat lose the weight means they are improving their immunity,” explained the Head of the DIY Nutrition and Food Expert Association (PERGIZI Food).
Budiningsari shared some tips to keep the body healthy and fit during fasting during the Covid-19 pandemic. The first step is first to ensure the health condition of the body. Fasting advised to everybody, especially the healthy people, while those who are sick are better to consult their doctor first.
Besides, maintaining a healthy and balanced meal by following the portion of the plate contents. At a suhoor time, there is a recommendation to eat complex carbohydrates and fibers that take a long time to digest that would be converted into energy. The energy produced will last longer and also feel full longer, for instance, brown rice, potatoes, whole wheat bread, grains, beans, oats, and sweet potatoes.
Besides, the consumption of green vegetables, broccoli, carrots, and others are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. At the same time, people gain protein from animals and vegetables gain from such as fish, eggs, chicken, meat, tempeh, and tofu.
Equally essential, do not forget to consume fruits, such as watermelons, papayas, melons, oranges, dragon fruit, and others. Next, maintain a 2-liter white water intake or the equivalent of 8-9 glasses a day, set from open to dawn.
“Limit sugar consumption to no more than 50 grams a day or the equivalent of 4 tablespoons because it can affect immune cells to fight disease. Also, avoid consuming foods with high trans fat content and reduce foods or drinks that contain simple carbohydrates, such as foods or drinks that are too sweet,” she explained.
When the fasting is over at the time when the sun goes down, Budiningsari advises people not to consume too much food. The portion of food for breaking the fast should be around 10-25 percent of daily needs, followed by dinner after sunset prayers around 25-35 percent, night snacks around 10-25 percent, while at dawn for 20-35 percent daily needs.
Not only maintaining balanced nutrition but during fasting, people are also encouraged to keep doing physical activity by exercising. People can do sports with household activities and mild to moderate aerobic exercise to keep the body healthy and fit.
Next, get enough rest at least 8 hours a day. Scheduling sleep regularly is important because the sleep schedule during fasting changes dramatically.
“Avoid stress because it can reduce immunity,” she added.
It is also essential to adhere to the Covid-19 preventive health protocol. Among others, by maintaining hygiene through diligent handwashing using soap, keeping a distance to others, avoiding crowds, and wearing masks outside the house.
Translator: Natasa A