Gulping down 'immunity boosting foods' as defence against CovidDemand for soup, chia seed, goat leg, asparagus, citrus fruits, turmeric, green tea and eggs has soared after the third wave, retailers say.
Grocer Sita Magar was happily surprised to see packaged soup flying off the shelves after the third wave of Covid-19 hit the country last month.
“People rarely used to buy packaged soup before the pandemic. In fact, I used to return unsold packets to my wholesaler. Nowadays, I cannot fulfil demand,” said the shopkeeper at Kumari Club, Balkhu.
“Vegetable, mushroom and chicken soups are in high demand,” Magar said. “I sell 15-20 packets daily.”
Demand for food and drink products that strengthen the immune system has risen sharply after Covid-19.
Retailers the Post talked to all said that demand for foods and drinks like soup, chia seed, goat leg, asparagus, citrus fruits, turmeric, green tea and eggs has soared because of their immunity boosting properties as people sought to protect themselves from infection with the coronavirus proliferating.
The food product currently in highest demand in Kathmandu Valley is goat leg to make soup.
According to Prem Bahadur Shrestha, proprietor of Prem Fresh Meat at Sinamangal, demand for goat legs is so high that people are ready to pay anything.
“The price of a pair of goat legs has increased by Rs200 to Rs800,” Shrestha said. "People have to book in advance to get the legs.”
Umesh Karki, a resident of Budhanilkantha, also believes that goat leg soup can help people recover from the coronavirus.
“A friend of mine who recovered from Covid-19 recommended goat leg soup when I got infected. I tried it and feel that it works,” Karki said.
Karki not only found goat leg expensive but hard to get. “I managed to get goat leg from a nearby butcher shop after waiting for five days,” he said.
“Demand for immunity boosting food has increased by almost 70 percent since last year,” said Surakchya Adhikari, chief operating officer and co-founder of online supermarket Thulo.com.
"Demand for so-called immunity boosting foods normally increases when the Covid caseload starts rising and the government starts imposing restrictions," Adhikari said.
People are snapping up health drinks, soup, chia seed and dried fruit, and we have even run out of stock many times,” Adhikari said.
"Homemade foods like sattu, organic food and food items that are rich in fibre are also in high demand."
However, doctors say there is no scientific evidence to show that one can boost immunity by consuming goat leg soup.
“It is not a scientifically proven fact that the so-called immunity boosting foods and drinks like goat soup make people recover from Covid-19,” said Dr Atul Upadhyay, a nutritionist.
"Vitamins and minerals boost immunity," Upadhyay said. “The immunity boosting foods that we consume contain different types of minerals such as calcium which obviously boosts immunity. But it does not mean they make you recover from Covid-19. We often advise people to take dietary supplements,” he said.
"But if one does not want to take dietary supplements and is looking for alternatives to recover from Covid-19, then animal source foods like egg, meat or even goat leg soup is normally advised," said Upadhyay.
“These foods contain a sufficient amount of minerals and proteins which help in increasing immunity. But I don't mean to say that immunity boosting foods build immunity and help one to recover from the coronavirus,” he added.
"A balanced diet is important," Upadhyay said. "Foods and drinks made from herbs which are available in the market including chia seed contain a good amount of antioxidants which is good for health."
As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in 2020, the global food and drink industry witnessed a rise in sales of immune boosting foods and drinks.
In Nepal too, consumer interest in immunity boosting foods and beverages rose significantly.
As vaccines became more widely available, demand for these foods dropped to some extent, but consumers still want immunity boosting foods and beverages, retailers say.
Researchers have found that micronutrients, such as Vitamin C, have a big impact on health. Not getting enough of vitamins and minerals can lead to poor immune function and more frequent disease from viral infections.
According to researchers, eating a balanced diet with micronutrients including Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, magnesium and zinc plays a key role in maintaining healthy immune function.
“While placing orders, consumers often ask if the food they are buying can help in boosting immunity,” Adhikari said.
But these trends, which have been magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic, are slowing down gradually, say retailers. Thanks to the availability of vaccines.