FROM vitamin C to probiotics, taking products that help boost the immune system becomes emphasised especially during cold days and times of an outbreak and pandemicslike the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). In March, more countries began imposing lockdowns, so most of us are forced to work in the safety of our homes. But others like healthcare workers, storekeepers, grocery staff, garbage collectors, and security guards are risking their lives amid this pandemic.
There is no saying how long the Covid-19 pandemic will affect our personal lives, communities, and industries. We can only prepare. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so goes the saying. Just how do you lower your chances of getting sick in general? Apart from having good genes, we know it starts with a healthy lifestyle – the right foods, enough sleep and exercise, as well as proper hygiene. Eating a balanced diet and consuming supplements are key, at any age. These days, trends show that consumers are preferring natural foods, fresh produce, and less processed products. When even food and beverage are in limited supply in stores due to lockdowns, it is still good to choose nutrient dense foods.
The simple intake of fruits and vegetables every day can help the body fight disease. Phytochemicals, vitamin C, calcium, and fibre are found in many fruits, vegetables and root crops. Consuming different types of fruit and vegetables together is also seen to be more effective. Berries are especially known for their antioxidants, or compounds that are said to prevent and repair damaged cells that can turn to free radicals that destroy other cells, and lead to development of disease.
Dietary fibre consumption is emphasised for its wonder work, which includes controlling cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight, as well as benefit to digestive health. The natural sources of fibre aside from fruits and vegetables, are grains, lentils, beans, nuts, oats, and wheat.
According to Taura Natural Ingredients, adults are recommended to take at least 25g of fibre a day, with average portion of fruit at 1.3grams. The company says that convenient products can help consumers boost their fibre intake more easily. Its JusFruit Fibre+™ product showcased in Fi Europe, Paris, can be consumed as a standalone snack, a paste, or an inclusion in healthy snacks. When used by manufacturers in their products, JusFruit Fibre+™ can offer moisture migration control, flexible formulations and easy line extensions.
Protein and protein ingredients
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for all age groups, being necessary for bone development during the growth years, and for bone health in the elderly. Young and older adults who are into active sports also require more protein. Meat products consumed in moderation are still the best sources of protein, just as soy, lentils and nuts are.
In many products such as confectionery, breads, snack bars, and drinks, protein ingredients from products like soy are being added to improve the profile of these food products.
Taste and nutrition company, Kerry has a portfolio of protein ingredients that uses both plant and animal sources. The Ultranor protein range is produced from milk, taking advantage of Ireland’s strong capability for sustainable and natural dairy production. These proteins can be used in drinks — both in ready-to-drink and ready-to-mix forms — and bars.
In an interview with FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal, John Reilly, Kerry’s VP Business Development, Proteins, said “Almost 97% of all milk produced in Ireland comes from grass-fed herds unlike in other countries where concentrate feeding is used. So we have the benefit of grass-fed milk, which is more nutritious in that it contains higher levels of some vitamins and has a better fatty acid profile.”
Probiotics and fermented foods
Studies show the influence of the gut or the gastrointestinal system and the brain on each other. The brain is said to have a direct connection to the stomach and intestines, and this can be exemplified by how thinking about food can make us feel hungry. Likewise a stomach in distress can also cause stress and anxiety.
For good gut health, probiotics or live microorganisms (good bacteria and yeast) are consumed to maintain or restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. The balance can be upset for instance when one takes medications such as antibiotics, or when one is suffering from diarrhoea.
Naturally fermented foods like kimchi, pickles, kombucha, kefir, and yogurt aid digestive health.
The research also provided insight into use of products containing probiotics. Around (49%) of the Chinese respondents, and a third (33%) of the Americans had used products containing probiotics over the past six months.
In 2018, then DuPont Nutrition & Health (now DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences) surveyed consumers in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, as to which product they associate probiotics. Most respondents said yogurt. In Indonesia, about 79% of yogurt-consuming adults recognise probiotics as friendly bacteria; 76% look at the ingredients or nutritional content on yogurt labels before they buy.
More clinical trials are documenting a series of strain-specific effects, such as digestive, immune and women’s health. One strain is Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04®, which is being studied for its ability to improve resistance to the common cold. A study[i] of 310 healthy adults, for example, has found that Bl-04® reduced the risk of upper respiratory tract illness – including the common cold – by 27%.
Israel-based Anlit, Ltd, a subsidiary of Maabarot Products, is one that offers a range of probiotics for gut health, women’s health, and immune function with added inulin fibre. These are Bifidobacterium lactis for boosting immunity; Lactobacillus acidophilus, the microbe of choice for protecting women’s gynecological health and preventing infections; and Lactobacillus rhamnosus-GG, known for helping to promote better gut function and for relieving IBS symptoms. These probiotics are live even in ambient conditions.
[i] West et al, Probiotic supplementation for respiratory and gastrointestinal illness symptoms in healthy physically active individuals, Clinical Nutrition, 2014
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