Almost everyone on the planet has coronavirus and COVID-19 on their minds at the moment. It is no surprise with the impact it has had globally. Alongside this people are looking in all directions for a way to stay safe and healthy from home.
Whilst the news is filled with numbers and our understanding of the virus increases I thought a lot about what advice I’d give people at this time regarding their nutrition.
If you are looking for a way to stay healthy then actually my advice would be the same to you now as at any time throughout my career as a nutritionist.
Because after talking to an internationally renowned integrated medical doctor about COVID19, I was informed that this has a highly inflammatory aspect.
And in some ways this is similar to other health threats that we already face within the twenty-first century, such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis or any of the other major illnesses.
Can I guarantee that if you spend your time in isolation eating a healthy diet that you will be immune? Absolutely not. But what I do know is that a well-nourished, healthy body has a far greater chance of fighting off any infection or even repairing damage to the body than a poorly nourished body.
What do I mean by a well-nourished body?
I don’t mean that you eat a lot. I mean that through your food (and supplements if necessary) that you are eating all the nutrients that your body needs to perform all its functions and avoiding those things that interfere with the body’s performance.
The Role of Inflammation
Inflammation is fast becoming recognised as the root cause of nearly all illnesses, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that COVID19 also causes this effect in the body. The first thing you can do to reduce inflammation is STOP eating foods that CAUSE inflammation. Later in this article I will cover which foods contribute to inflammation but first here is a list of foods that are anti-inflammatory and need to be the foods that you focus on if you want good health.
Choose as wide a variety as you can and preferably within season. A plate that is vibrant with colour from vegetables is a wonderful sight and hugely satisfying. Green leafy and cruciferous vegetables are especially important for our health and especially aid with detoxification. If you struggle with green vegetables message me to find out how you can easily add the benefits to your diet without the taste.
Celery is a great snack, especially for those who are constantly wanting to nibble.
I could write a whole article on the benefits of fruits for the body. Whilst organic is always preferable, it is especially important for berries. Be careful with fruit juices as many are highly processed and no better than sugar. Even those that aren’t are missing the fibre which is hugely beneficial to health and much lacking in the Western diet.
Herbs are nature’s true superfood. Try growing your own. Many can be grown in pots on your windowsill – perfect lock down gardening!
Only eat raw nuts– not dry roasted or oiled and salted as these have been damaged by the treatment that they have gone through. These can be difficult to buy in shops, but I do buy from an organic wholesaler for my customers and if you want to be part of future bulk orders then please ask me. I have been buying from this same wholesaler for over 20 years.
Pumpkin, sunflower, sesame linseed and even coconut again in their natural, raw form. Particularly known for their anti-inflammatory benefits are black cumin seed, grape seed and black / red raspberry seeds, ask me how you can easily get these seeds into your diet every day.
There are lots of foods to enjoy in the above categories and you can enjoy these with wild caught fish, eggs and low glycaemic grains such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, oats, spelt, amaranth, buckwheat, rye and barley. Experiment with these grains in various recipes or ask me for ideas.
Hopefully the above has your taste buds tingling and your imagination in overdrive with new possibilities, but before I end this article let me tell you about the things that you need to work towards eliminating or minimising within your diet.
Here is a list of these foods and suggestions of what to swap them with:
White sugar (sucrose)
If you take sugar in tea or coffee, then gradually reduce the amount you add. If you do this slowly enough your taste buds will adapt, and you will get used to the reduced amount. Even better change what you drink altogether, try green tea, herbal tea or fruit tea, or try drinking more water – you can flavour with lemon juice, herbs or fruit if you want to.
If you eat sugar in the form of desserts, then learn to make desserts without sugar. You can substitute dried fruit at first. See my website for details of my Healthy Desserts Workshop https://theessenceofhealth.co.uk/healthy-desserts-workshop/. If you are interested in me running an online version of this workshop, please let me know.
These are just as bad if not worse than sugar and the advice would be the same as above. You are more likely to crave sweetness when using artificial sweeteners than sugar too, because when your taste buds responded to the taste they sent a message to your body saying that sugar was on its way and then that promise was never fulfilled. Try telling a child that you will give it a chocolate bar if it is good and then giving the child an empty chocolate bar wrapper. DON’T actually do this – I am sure your imagination can come up with the scenario that will ensue if you do!
This covers a wide range of foods that are altered for our convenience either minimally e.g. pre-prepared soup or radically e.g. most ice creams, noodles in a pot, hot dogs etc
If you learn what is done to these foods, that alone will probably be enough to encourage you to eat fresh food. These foods are also usually loaded with sugar, salt, artificial sweeteners, colours and flavours and fats that have been hugely changed from their natural state.
The antidote to this is to learn to prepare quick healthy meals. This needs a little effort at first but becomes very easy when you know what you are doing.
Alcohol puts a huge strain on the liver. It is effectively a poison to the body which the body then needs to work hard to detoxify. If you want to drink alcohol, keep within the government guidelines of 1-2 units per day and always avoid binge drinking.
If you consume alcohol to wind down at the end of the day, it is important to focus on finding other ways to do this – meditation, going for a walk, deep breathing or finding a way to leave the stressful situation that you are in permanently.
Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, whey protein).
Switch to nut based milks. These are now widely available but also very easy to make yourself. Ask me for details and I will show you.
Meat that has been laced with growth hormones and antibiotics is inflammatory. Too much red meat is also inflammatory. If you enjoy meat eat only high-quality organic meat and less frequently.
Swap meat for wild caught fish and try making some vegetarian meals.
Some oils are very beneficial to our health but those that have been turned rancid through their processing are very harmful.
Try steam frying by using a little water in place of oil and switch from refined oils to raw coconut oil. If you want to add a high-quality olive oil to your food do it after cooking, just drizzle before serving.
This is a long list and I recommend choosing one thing at a time to work on. It is far better to be successful at one thing than to struggle with everything. The elimination side of eating healthy may not seem easy at first so focus instead on what you will ADD and ENJOY to make you healthier. There will come a point when you just don’t want the unhealthy foods anymore and then the decision to say no, is easy.
Would you like help with implementing healthier nutrition into your life? During lock down I can still do 1-1 nutrition consultations via Skype or Zoom and will do group classes via Facebook live. Please get in touch with your interests and I will put together a programme to meet your needs. This is a fabulous opportunity to transform your diet and lifestyle at very low cost.
Links to more detailed information