Making Diet and Wellness a Priority During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Eating well may not be the first thing you think about when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. You may be thinking more about toilet paper or disinfectant wipes. However, your diet should be a priority, just as much as toilet paper, if not more. Eating a diet that is rich in nutrients will keep your immune system strong and in top condition.
Make the most of your grocery store trip
Since most of us are practicing social distancing, we are trying to keep grocery store trips to a minimum. When you do go, use some of these guidelines to make sure you are stocking up on foods that are nutrient-dense and long-lasting.
- Before you head to the store, create your meal plan. Some find it helpful to use a cycling plan that uses some of the same staple foods. If you’re stuck in your meal planning, take a look at our 3-day meal plan.
- Make nutrition a top priority to keeping your immunity and health up. Think about meals at home that you can make during this time that focus on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lentils, and beans. These should be served the most, while meat and dairy can be served in smaller portions to save both money and saturated fat. Here are some examples below:
- Black bean taco bowls with brown rice
- Chili with beans instead of ground beef
- Stuffed Bell Peppers using quinoa, tomatoes, and black beans
- Stir-fry with edamame and tofu
- Breakfast burritos filled with eggs and vegetables (skip the sausage and bacon)
- Apple cinnamon oatmeal with chia seeds
- Oatmeal, chia-seed, and yogurt bowl for breakfast
- Now, make a shopping list and stick to it. Look at what you already have in storage and then what you’ll need for your meal plan. This way, you’ll be less likely to forget items and have to return to the grocery store.
- While at the store, it may be tempting to stock up on frozen meals. Frozen dinners and meals have very little nutritional value and are usually high in sodium, fat, added sugars and calories. Additionally, limit foods like chips, sodas, cookies, and non-nutrient dense foods. Instead, fill your cart with some fresh produce to snack on during the day to help in keeping your immune system strong during this time.
Foods to include in your diet keep your immune system strong during coronavirus
Keeping your immune system strong depends on several factors and one of those factors is your diet. Be sure to eat foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals that strengthen the immune system. Nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, omega – 3 fatty acids, and antioxidants are key for your immune system. So when you are heading to the grocery store, fill your basket with these essential items for better nutrition when it comes to fighting the coronavirus.
Beans and legumes
Adding beans to meals like the examples posted above can keep your diet rich in zinc, a nutrient that can help shorten the duration of a cold. One cup of beans has 13% of the daily recommendation of zinc. Beans are also a plant-based protein. If you happen to get sick, adequate amounts of protein in your diet keep your cells (especially the white blood cells) strong enough to fight off viruses and diseases. Try using beans in dips or soups!
All berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, contain a rich amount of vitamin C, flavonoids (an antioxidant-rich phytonutrient) and other antioxidants that can help lower the risk of chronic diseases and improve the immune system. Flavonoids are especially helpful in strengthening our immune system to fight off upper respiratory infections as they have antioxidant properties. They protect essential vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin E in the body to keep them working at their best. Add berries to your yogurt, smoothies, toast, or oatmeal.
Eggs (even the yolk)
Eggs are a power-house of nutrients for your immune system. Most nutrients are found in the yolk, so make sure to still eat that part as well. The yolk is full of vitamins like A, D, zinc, and selenium. Eggs are considered a “perfect protein”, containing all the essential proteins your body and cells need to function their best while fighting off sickness.
Greek yogurt is full of probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei, two strains that help to increase the good bacteria in your gut. Having enough “good” bacteria helps to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Yogurt is also rich in vitamin D, which has been shown to improve immune responses to infections, as well as boost mood levels.
You can use plain Greek yogurt as a replacement for sour cream in many recipes, such as guacamole. Look on the yogurt’s labels to make sure they are made with “live and active cultures”, containing several billion CFU’s (colony forming units).
There is a reason honey has been used for centuries and has been known to have healing properties. Honey, especially raw honey, contains antioxidants and antibacterial compounds that help fight cells within the immune system. Honey can also lower inflammation within the body. When it comes to fighting any type of infection, less inflammation is always helpful. Add honey to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, or use in baked goods instead of sugar.
Dark green leafy vegetables
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are rich in the essential fat-soluble vitamin A. Vitamin A is crucial for the immune function of cells. It regulates the cellular immune response and decreases inflammation. Dark leafy vegetables are also rich in iron, a key nutrient to keeping our cells healthy. Adding spinach to smoothies, soups, on top of pizzas, and using spinach instead of lettuce in sandwiches, burgers, tacos and in salads are all great ways to add more immune-boosting nutrients to your diet.
Oats have a variety of antioxidants including polyphenols, as well as zinc. Zinc is a key nutrient in the immune system as it helps in reducing inflammation and fighting infections by assisting in the development of white blood cells. Add oats to yogurt, make no-bake granola bars or have overnight oats.
Sweet potatoes have a beautiful orange color because they are rich in beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A. One medium-sized sweet potato has half of your daily vitamin C needs. Use sweet potatoes for your morning breakfast potatoes or make stuffed sweet potatoes with black beans, tomatoes, and cilantro. Put them in enchiladas or breakfast burritos. You can even use them to bake fluffy pancakes.
Buy fresh or frozen broccoli and put it in dishes like pasta, stir-fry, hashes or even dip it in hummus. Broccoli is rich in vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin A is used in strengthening the immune fighting cells. Vitamin C and E are powerful antioxidants that further help to fight off any diseases or sickness.
Nuts and seeds
Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and nuts such as walnuts are full of omega 3 fatty acids. These help with the activation of a variety of immune cells, especially the ones that are in charge of the first line of defense. Nuts and seeds are also rich in the powerful vitamin E which can help support a healthy immune system. Try adding nuts and seeds to baked goods, granola, trail mix, oatmeal, or even on peanut butter toast with some honey.
Did you know bell peppers have more vitamin C than an orange? Since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, the body does not store it. This means you need to replenish it every day by eating foods high in vitamin C. If you are deficient in this nutrient, it can impair how your immune system functions. Use bell peppers is fajitas, stir-fries, stuffed bell peppers, or raw with some hummus.
Chicken and fish
Lean meats like chicken are rich in B vitamins and zinc, two nutrients your immune system needs. There are many different reactions that take place within the body when the immune system is fighting off an illness. B vitamins and zinc aid in many of these reactions. Chicken and fish are also healthy protein sources. Protein helps your body repair tissue and fight inflammation.
Choose fatty fish with essential fatty acids such as salmon. Fatty fish is a great source of both vitamin D and omega -3’s like EPA and DHA, which help to decrease inflammation in the body. Just one serving of salmon meets the daily recommendation for Vitamin D. Doing a sheet pan dinner with either chicken or salmon with some vegetables is a great way to add this to your diet.