By Dr. Elissa Naim
It is understandable that many people will feel anxious or upset about the COVID-19 outbreak and the impact that it has on their lives. This is a stressful time and looking after your mental as well as your physical health is important. A healthy diet is difficult to maintain and many people are snacking more. Nutritionists explain this due to feeling bored, stressed and anxious. Putting on weight is dangerous as obesity is a COVID-19 risk factor. A rise in obesity also poses a long-term threat since it’s related to chronic diseases like type II diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension etc.
Maintaining a healthy diet plays a crucial role in determining how well people recover from coronavirus. But what exactly does a healthy diet comprise of, and how can one ensure he is eating as well as he is stuck inside his home all the time?
People are facing emotional eating which occurs when food is used to soothe or suppress negative emotions such as isolation, anger, boredom, or stress. Often comfort or emotional eating ignore feelings of physical hunger that come from an empty stomach. Hence, the most common foods craved are usually ultra-processed, such as biscuits, crisps, chocolate, and ice cream. These foods are scientifically engineered to quickly target the pleasure receptors in our brains. To overcome this feeling, try keeping healthy and nutritious snacks nearby to ensure you don’t head straight to the biscuit and chocolate tin or chips at the slightest hunger pang. Go for healthy combination such as yoghurt and berries, fresh fruits and raw nuts, dried fruits and raw nuts, hummus and carrots, healthy popcorn.
Remember! Don’t push yourself too hard, have your cheat snack or meal every once in a while. Not only will this boost your mood and keep your spirits high, but it will prevent you from binging on sweet treats you might’ve forbidden yourself from eating. Now is certainly not the time for restrictions.
In addition, try planning out a few meals so you know what you need and don’t have to face the ‘what’s for lunch or dinner’ dilemma every day. ”Planning meals in advance could also ensure you use up all of the ingredients you have before buying more, thus preventing waste. Use up your fresh ingredients first.
Three nutrients that you should definitely include which help to support your immune system are: vitamin A (found in eggs, sweet potato and spinach), vitamin C (found in berries, kiwi, tomatoes & peppers) and zinc (found in meat, shellfish, raw nuts, dairy and bread). Thus, strengthening your immune system through a proper diet by increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables, with at least five servings a day. They contain vitamins mentioned above in addition to antioxidants, which will help you fight infections. Eat legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans) at least three times a week, they keep for a long time, are inexpensive and will help you stay healthy, because they are high in proteins and iron. Don’t forget to add garlic, onions and spices such as ginger and tumeric which are rich in antioxidants that scavenge on free radicals that can weaken the immune system. Include Omega-3 which can be found in seafood and raw nuts. Canned oily fish in particular is a really handy item to have in your cupboard while on lockdown. It is relatively cheap and has a long shelf life, yet it is rich in omega-3, thus improving mental wellbeing. In normal circumstances, sunshine, not food, is where most of your vitamin D comes from. Indeed, try to be exposed to sun through your open window, balcony or try to do a walk around the house. Vitamin D is important for bone health and support the immune system and mental health. Hence, vitamin D works with calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones, muscles and teeth. You can also eat plenty of vitamin D food sources, including: oily fish such as salmon, egg yolk, meat and milk, some breakfast cereals and yoghurts.
Moreover, exercise regularly 30 min a day the way it suits you either walking outside to benefit from the good weather or doing youtube workout or weight training at home. Worth mentioning that workout helps you increase your happiness hormones such as endorphine. Furthermore, there are particular foods that can help boost the levels of the happy hormone serotonin, such as fish, nuts, dark green vegetables, seeds, oats, yogurt, eggs and poultry.
Sugar, processed meat, smoking and alcohol should be reduced since they tend to be inflammatory so they busy the immune system, leaving other problems in your body unaddressed. Keep any caffeinated drinks to a minimum and try not to drink them from mid-afternoon so they don’t affect your sleep. Drinking an adequate amount of water (at least 2L/day) is essential in order to feel and function at your best and to stay hydrated and support your immune system.
Health and diet are proving particularly difficult to manage as our regular regimes are disrupted and millions of us are working from home with constant access to our kitchens and the treats within. Yet, a BALANCED diet is the key! We don't recommend any one food over another, but instead encourage eating a variety of foods to maintain a healthy diet in addition to daily workout and keep being hydrated.