As cases of COVID-19 begin to multiply, there’s a lot of panic around putting in supplies for self-isolation and/or being quarantined. (I learned a new German word for this behavior: hamstern. Yes, it’s related to the cute rodent.)
There are also a lot of questions around how to build immunity.
It’s no mistake that we talk about an immune system—it’s an intricate combination of functions in our bodies, not a simple “immune organ,” and as so often happens in the world of nutrition, there is a wide range of differing opinions on whether “building immunity” is even possible, from “don’t waste your time” to “do/eat these 20 things daily.”
I feel the truth—as usual—lies somewhere in between the two extremes.
My own take on immunity? Those who make better food and lifestyle choices over time are more likely to have a better immune system. The key is to make better choices daily, not just when you’re sick or there’s a pandemic going on around you.
The good news? Even if you’ve been living on processed food and making other poor choices, there’s no time like the present to start changing that.
In fact, I’m starting to wonder whether the pandemic isn’t the Universe’s way of teaching us to change our ways, to slow down, disconnect from the outside world, and reconnect with what our inner voices are really asking for—what we know in our gut is healthy.
Because let’s face it—you probably already know what’s good for you, you just need that little shove to start doing it: that’s how I’m looking at the pandemic.
And this is important: don’t feel like you have to do everything at once: every little action is a step in the right direction!
the lockdown lists
- Stick with whole foods cooked from scratch at home—no need to megadose on anything, especially not on foods that make health claims—and avoid highly processed foods. Need information/inspiration for cooking at home on a regular basis? Check out my Fl!p Your K!tchen Quarantine Survival Special!
- Focus on nutrient density: for every calorie you get from macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates), make sure you’re getting a whopping dose of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals).
- My personal pick of whole foods that are nutrient-dense and considered to help with strengthening your immune system:
- Hot or warm water with a little honey, a squeeze of lemon, and a few slices of fresh ginger in it
- Hot tea—regular or herbal
- Homemade chicken soup
- Garlic and onions—raw if you can handle them!
- Dark green leafy vegetables (that’s right—I push kale for a reason, and you can choose between a lot of different greens if kale’s not your thing): try to eat at least 1 portion per day, more if you can (1 portion raw = the same volume as your two fists; 1 portion cooked = the same volume as 1 fist
- Sweet potatoes: again, aim for 1 portion per day
- Fresh ginger root
- Citrus fruits
- Obviously, not all the fruits and veggies on that list are in season, so if you can’t find them fresh, go with frozen. Yes, they may be less nutritious that the fresh ones—and it’s still better than not eating them at all.
- Check your personal hygiene: follow the information provided by the CDC regarding hand washing, covering your coughs and sneezes, and social distancing—especially if you are the sick person.
- Get some sleep: this is when your body repairs itself—give it a chance!
- Try stress reduction: mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, time with pets, yoga…. The possibilities are endless! Most importantly, stop “future living”—if your mind automatically jumps to “but what if,” start to recognize that the energy you expend on worrying will not change the future, and while we cannot change it, we can prepare for it—without obsessing.
- Physical activity: get your body moving. If you are not quarantined, find a time and place to go for a brisk walk outdoors, away from other people. If you’re stuck at home, consider workout videos, walking in place, body-weight strength training exercises, stretching…. The internet will help you with this!
- Sun exposure: especially if it’s sunny out, try to get outside or sit at an open window.
- Develop a positive mindset: start a gratitude practice, celebrate your own awesomeness, laugh, check out what you can find for positive mindset exercises online.
- Now’s the time to quit smoking once and for all and start reducing caffeine and alcohol to moderate levels.
think outside your box
The COVID-19 pandemic is going to be like an earthquake: there will be the initial shock—followed by long-term aftershocks in the worlds of health, economy, and politics.
While you’re taking care of yourself and your loved ones, spare a thought (and take some action) for those less fortunate: if you can, volunteer your time and talents where they are needed; if you can help financially, find some worthy organizations in your own community who are working to help the under-resourced, especially the very young and the elderly, who are hardest-hit when community services are shut down.
And consider what we’re learning about our healthcare system during this time: are there changes you’d like to see enacted? Now is the time to think this through and reach out to your elected officials!
make the connection
Leave a comment and let me know, what measures are you taking to help yourself and others during the outbreak?
And if you’re looking at this time as an opportunity to really start or uplevel your home cooking practice, don’t forget the Fl!p Your K!tchen Quarantine Survival Special I mentioned above!