South Africans are now well on their way to laying down the tracks needed to steer our country away from the road of COVID ruin. This has been an extremely challenging time, but everyone is, in all spheres of life, remaining positive.
Healthy eating – a healthy gut, a strong immune system and activation of all our anti-inflammatory and antioxidant pathways – has never been more important.
When it comes to looking at how to optimize our health during COVID-19, vitamin D is more than just a bone-health promoting nutrient. Studies carried out on 11’000 participants, published in the British Medical Journal, showed that vitamin D offers strong protection against acute respiratory tract infections. Although these were large daily supplemental doses (which I don’t recommend unless you have spoken to a health professional) you can easily increase vitamin D intake by eating oily fish (salmon, pilchards, sardines, all with bones included), egg yolks and mushrooms that have been exposed to UV rays.
Getting cabin fever from staying indoors?! One of the best, easiest and free sources of vitamin D is sunlight. Spend at least 15 minutes a day in the sun – this will also help calm your mind.
Vitamin D is very important when it comes to mood, immune response and gut health.
It is evident that supporting our immune system is, in combination with good hygiene practices, of utmost importance and will be for a while.
While there are a variety of factors that can support our immune system, including Wim Hoff breathing methods and mediation, the food we put into our bodies can either weaken or enhance our immune health, by working deeply on a cellular level.
Gut health is one of the most important components of immune health and supporting a healthy gut barrier can help prevent penetrance of bacteria as well as inflammation that stems from the gut.
Eating foods that contain natural probiotics, such as yoghurt with live cultures and fermented products like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir (in small amounts), helps to plant healthy bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics, the fibres that feed the healthy gut bacteria, are found in asparagus, artichokes, onion, leeks, shallots, garlic, bananas and whole-grain products.
On the other hand, more time at home often brings about the challenge of snacking on more convenient food. Unfortunately, these are often processed and refined carbohydrates, foods that are high in sugar and trans fatty acids and can increase inflammation and worsen gut health.
Research shows that a particularly high intake of very colorful fruit and vegetables during this time is very important in limiting collateral damage when it comes to our immune response. Some even suggest as much as 7-8 portions of vegetables per day, where one portion is equivalent to one cup of raw vegetables or half a cup of cooked vegetables.
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant boosts
Foods that positively alter cellular metabolism, work strongly on our anti-inflammatory and antioxidant pathways.
Brassica vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts) as well as dark green leafy vegetables (kale, watercress, bok choy, rocket, baby spinach) contain compounds which switch on our master antioxidant conductors making them important for immune support.
Variety is key when it comes to choosing your fruit and vegetables. The greater the variety of fruit and vegetables eaten, the more variant the polyphenols, vitamins and mineral profiles will be. This even applies to choosing a different type of fruit within the same fruit family – for example choosing granny smith apples instead of golden delicious. This is great to know and a wonderful tip, especially when you may have limited access to your usual variety of fruit and vegetables.
Please, please, don’t forget herbs and spices on your shopping list. Not only can we spice up our lives and add the flavour that is so greatly needed during these times, but herbs and spices contain the most concentrated forms of important nutrients as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.
There are other good food sources that help to put out inflammatory fires in the body. These include omega-3 fatty acids, the most powerful forms of which are found in oily fish: salmon, trout, pilchards, sardines, herring, tuna and mackerel; while vegetarian sources can be found in chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and seaweed. Also included are turmeric, containing the compound curcumin, and olive oil – one of my favourite liquid golds.
The food we eat is really one area we should put effort into and control during these ‘uncontrollable’ times. Nourishing our body and emphasizing the phrase “food is medicine” has never been more important!
Nourish yourself to the sunrise.
Written with love,
Sunrise by HM
Nourished yet? Comment on what I should write about next?
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