Book shares secrets of fighting Covid-19 using better nutrition

Fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of nutritious, wholesome food produced without heavy use of toxic sprays and no added chemicals plays a key role in controlling diseases.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • How can people help deal with the pandemic as scientists and researchers work harder to come up with an effective vaccine?
  • Prof Onyango, who has over 18 years’ experience in training, research and community outreach crop production systems, post-harvest handling of produce, standards and food safety, reckons that food is perhaps the best medicine against the disease.
  • The book also reveals ways to obtain and prepare food to maintain its medicinal value, adding information on local and indigenous plants and traditional preparations filled with the best nutrients. 

With more than 52 million infections across the globe and at least 1.2 million fatalities, Covid-19 has become the world’s worst nightmare.

And as the disease spreads, it is clear that a lot needs to be done to contain the crisis, even as lockdowns, wearing of masks and sanitation help manage it.

But how can people help deal with the pandemic as scientists and researchers work harder to come up with an effective vaccine?

Cecilia Onyango, an associate professor of horticulture at the University of Nairobi, and her co-author colleagues, explores the place of nutrition in the fight against the pandemic in a new book.

Titled, Surviving Covid-19: The Neglected Remedy, and produced Barefoot Guide Team under the auspices of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty for Africa (AFSA), she explores how agro-ecology can be used in the fight against the disease, with people using remedies that are readily available at home, fields and markets.

Poor nutrition

She authored the book together with John Wilson, a Zimbabwean free-range facilitator and activist, Peter Gubbels, a co-founder of Groundswell International in West Africa who works with rural communities to promote sustainable agriculture, agro-ecology and nutrition and Dr Peter Mokaya, a public health physician and founding director of Organic Consumers Alliance.

Prof Onyango, who has over 18 years’ experience in training, research and community outreach crop production systems, post-harvest handling of produce, standards and food safety, reckons that food is perhaps the best medicine against the disease.

According to the pan-Africa team of authors, research affirms that the food we eat affects our mood, our mental capacity, our energy level and, in general, our health.

They thus connect nutrition and Covid-19; with its basis being data across nations, which has proved that the disease compromises the wellbeing of those with poor nutrition. 

“How best can people across Africa deal with Covid-19? How can those in densely populated urban areas or in remote rural villages best survive Covid-19 if they get infected?” the authors pose.

Indigenous plants

“There are several answers to these questions. But there is one we must never forget: eat a variety of nutritious, wholesome food produced without heavy use of toxic sprays and has no added chemicals,” they answer.

The book also reveals ways to obtain and prepare food to maintain its medicinal value, adding information on local and indigenous plants and traditional preparations filled with the best nutrients. 

If possible, the book suggests, harvesting should be done just before cooking, and one should avoid too much salt, avoid artificial flavourings as they contain harmful additives.

Instead, use herbs and spices like garlic, ginger, coriander, rosemary, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, turmeric, vanilla and onions, which have protective substances and nutrients.

The authors identify traditional vegetables like amaranth, African nightshade, jute mallow, African spinach (Basella alba), moringa, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, cassava, sweet potatoes, ginger, garlic, arrowroots, carrots, goose berries, strawberries, pawpaw, guava, groundnuts, avocado and loquats as the good crops to farm for better nutrition.

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