Consider your nutrition action plan!
How are we all doing out there, folks? It's amazing how much can change in one week, isn't it? Last week, I was writing about healthy pasta and we were having a perfectly sensible conversation about portion sizes.
This week, the world has gone mad! You can't buy toilet paper and, despite every intention not to overreact, I have three gallons of bleach in my cupboard. I am not sure what for!
It's not like I have time to deep clean, I'm too busy trying to figure out how to work from home and oversee two different grades of home schooling … [insert nervous-hysterical laughter!] It'll be fine I am sure.
To be fair, the school has been amazing and Chloe is fully engaged in six classes a day via Skype for Business. It's hard to remember that this little laptop pro is only twelve! Belle needs a little more help, but at least my own skills are improving as we go … I'm well-versed in all Spanish farmyard animal names now. I'm sure that'll be helpful!
[I also only need to do this part-time as the girls' dad is heavily involved too. Kudos to all the parents out there who are riding this rollercoaster and working 'til midnight to make sure it all gets done.]
Anyway, amid all the chaos I thought I'd bring you some advice to help you take a proactive approach to this saga. Lots of my clients have said they feel like “sitting ducks”.
It's a little like waiting for a hurricane to hit, a feeling we all know so well!
The thing is, when we're waiting for a hurricane, Bermudians have a tendency to stock up on junk — the chip aisle is the first to empty at the grocery store, the booze flies off the shelves; everyone stocks up on non-perishable “treats” that are really anything but.
I was watching footage of Americans shopping for the apocalypse at Costco, carts piled high with oversized packs of Cheetos and Pringles, and I just wondered … how is this helping anyone stay healthier?
If this was an exercise in How to Eat to Specifically Depress Your Immune Function, then they would be acting it! So, I thought it would be helpful to make an action plan for anyone who would rather do the opposite. Given that your nutrition is arguably the most important factor within your control [second only to social distancing and personal hygiene], let's focus on the steps we can take to build our immunity.
Your Covid-19 nutrition action plan
1, First, a caveat
It goes without saying that if you have a medical condition that requires specific dietary advice, you should follow the advice given to you by your caregiver. Also, the advice given here is general and you'll need to use your own self-awareness to adapt it to your needs.
If you have allergies or intolerances that mean some otherwise healthy foods don't agree with you, then avoid them — that's fine! Do your best.
2, Create a supportive environment
Junk does absolutely nothing positive for your body in general, let alone your immune function. Sugar is the enemy here!
If you don't want to eat junk but get tempted, then simply don't have it at home. You can't eat ice cream from the freezer at 11pm if it's not there!
Fill your cupboards with healthy snacks instead: lentil chips and salsa, KIND bars [just the Nut & Spice versions which are lower sugar and high protein], Go Macro bars [high protein versions only], Hippeas chick pea puffs, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, Brazil nuts, organic popcorn, Mary's Gone Crackers crackers …. Not to mention fresh fruit and veg in the fridge!
3, Definitely avoid the bad fats
Bad fats are especially bad for depressing immune function as they can inhibit the uptake of good fats [which are anti-inflammatory and immune boosting] and vitamin D [see below]. So avoid anything fried or processed.
When looking at labels on packets, avoid anything that contains trans or hydrogenated fats.
When comparing animal-based products, choose options that are lower in saturated fats. When you cook, avoid heating oil so high that it smokes in the pan.
I generally use light olive oil over a medium heat. Avocado oil or ghee can withstand higher temperatures if need be. Good fats like fish, olives, avocado, unroasted nuts/seeds and extra virgin olive oil on salads are encouraged.
4, Pack in the fruit and vegetables
I am not sure that people need to be stockpiling, but if you do want some things for your freezer, then I would go with lots of frozen fruit and vegetables.
If fresh produce runs short [unlikely] then it's an important back-up. Just note that if you boil frozen veg you can get significant nutrient loss, so steam them instead. Fruit and vegetables [especially the ones which are really brightly coloured] are packed with immune-boosting antioxidants that are anti-ageing too [bonus].
Freezing doesn't damage nutrient density. The easiest way to bump up your intake is to replace grain-based carbs with fruit or vegetables.
Instead of rice, try roasted butternut squash. Instead of crackers with hummus, have peppers or carrots. Instead of a cookie, have some fruit. It's easy!
5, Make sure you have adequate vitamin D
Of all the research out there on nutritional factors that may be useful for Covid-19, this is probably the strongest.
A growing body of evidence shows us that vitamin D is important for supporting immune health and crucially, helps to improve resilience to respiratory infections. [I have put samples of sources from the World Health Organisation and the British Medical Journal on Facebook.]
This is especially relevant for people who are deficient in vitamin D, but I think it's important for everyone.
Please note the following:
• You can't really get enough safe sun exposure to fulfil optimal vitamin D requirements, so supplementing is a good idea.
• Even if you are not medically deficient, small daily doses are perfectly safe and it's easier thanoverwhelming our doctors with testing requests at this stage.
• Small daily doses are not only safer but more efficient than mega-dosing.
• All our Garden of Life Multivitamins at Miles Market Ltd [children', women's, prenatal, men's] contain optimal levels of vitamin D in a highly bioavailable form.
They also offer great nutrient synergy [adequate levels of vitamin A, C and E are all important to protect vitamin D in the body].
There are plenty of other quality brands out there — look for one that contains at least 500ius [children] and 800ius [adults]. For infants and very young children, paediatric drops are available at all pharmacies. If you just want straight up vitamin D, then Inside Out Wellness Centre stock great organic drops.
• Multivitamins should always be taken with food, but as vitamin D is fat soluble, it's best taken with food that contains good fats [nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, fish, full-fat organic dairy].
For infants and young children breast milk and formula do provide sufficient fats. Good news!
• Remember, avoid fried food as that inhibits the absorption of vitamin D.
• The best dietary sources of vitamin D are animal products and include salmon, organic full-fat dairy and eggs.
This means that vegetarians and vegans should be especially vigilant about supplementing vitamin D.
6, Don't forget the obvious!
As ever, staying hydrated with water and sleeping well are important measures for boosting immunity and resilience.
Don't feel bad if you make every effort and still get sick. You can't mitigate everything!
What we're trying to do is prevent it, if possible, and improve your resilience so that you recover faster and more comfortably.
I appreciate that lots of people have anxiety in these situations and have lots of questions. I'm happy to help as best I can, so feel free to send me a message on e-mail or social media if you need help. Stay safe and have a great weekend!
•Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram