In times of stress, it's no secret that most of us reach for comfort foods - chips, bars, mac N' cheese, brownies...etc - but what we reach for, especially during the SARS-CoV2 outbreak (the virus that causes Covid-19) may help our bodies optimize immunity while helping manage chronic inflammatory conditions (especially in high-risk groups).(Source1)
One quick side note on "high-risk groups": Although it is true that individuals with a pre-existing condition, especially certain chronic conditions, are at increased risk of getting covid-19, I want to make sure you understand that anyone from 0 months to 105 years, regardless of health status is at risk of contracting the virus. However, we are seeing that severe complications to the virus, including increased mortality, are happening in our sickest and oldest populations.
Nutrition by no means is a "magic bullet" that can prevent you from contracting the virus but I believe it has the power to improve your overall health and resilience. There are several diet- and lifestyle-related interventions we can apply right now to help flatten the curve. They are: focus on real foods, getting adequate sleep and exercise, cutting out sugars and staying connected.
1. Focus on whole, colorful foods
Focusing on foods from each color of the rainbow will ensure that you are getting a diverse range of nutrients and phytonutrients that are important in overall health and vitality. The nutrients that are especially important for immune function are vitamin D, vitamin A, quercetin and vitamin C. Mushrooms, avocados, red onions, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes, and vegetables from the Brassica family - like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower - are all excellent sources of these nutrients. Fruits such as kiwi, oranges, apples, mangoes, bell peppers, and strawberries also fit the bill. (Source 2)
Fish and fish oil are especially beneficial for supplying the body with healthy fats like EPA and DHA - both necessary to help with controlling inflammation in the body. Focus on fatty fish like salmon and sardines.
2. Make sure you are getting enough sleep (between 7 - 9 hours) each night and exercising regularly
Sleep is so important for overall health, it reduces stress, decreases inflammation, clears your brain, repairs your body and so much more. (Source3). Exercise, similar to sleep, improves the negative effects of stress, (Source 4). Sleep and consistent exercise should be easy lifestyle interventions that mostly anyone can implement that will have many benefits to overall health and well-being. For sleep, aim for 7 - 9 hours per night. Exercise (deliberate planned out physical activity) should be performed for at least 30 min per day on most days of the week. Walking, gardening, yard work, housework - all count.
3. Cutting out sugar
Sugar can not only increase systemic inflammation in your body it also suppresses your immune system for several hours after it is consumed. Sugars are oftentimes consumed in juices, packaged foods, desserts, and sodas. Consider removing all processed sugar from your diet.
4. Staying connected with friends, family, and coworkers
Humans are social creatures. Duh. We thrive in social situations and this coronavirus is no bueno for our mental health. Do whatever you can to stay connected to friends and family. Daily phone calls, FaceTime parties, take the time to write a letter to your grandparents or older relatives, wine nights with your girlfriends, and perhaps a virtual dinner date with your chosen partner (if separated) - are all great options. Staying connected (and feeling loved and bonded) has been shown to boost your mental health. Go ahead, make it a point to reach out to someone you care about tonight!
There you have it! A quick guide into nutritions' role in coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) prevention. We are all in this together. Take the necessary precautions, stay updated by visiting the CDC and NIH, eat well, sleep even better, be kind to yourself and your neighbor. We will get through this. Who knows, you may come out of this pandemic with an optimal diet and lifestyle plan personalized for you!
Sending good vibes,
If you would like personalized insight into diet and lifestyle tips to help you optimize your health and well-being during the pandemic, I am offering 50% off right now through April 2020 for a one-month personalized plan. You can sign up HERE.