Updated: May 7, 2020
During these extremely difficult and challenging times where Covid-19 has affected all of us in so many different ways how can we attempt to help ourselves build resilience right now and for what the future may bring.
One of the most empowering things WE can do at times when so much feels out of our control is to manage our health by taking charge of what we eat.
It very important to consider ways in which we can support and build our immune systems to be as healthy as possible in order to be ready to fight those invaders in the best way possible.
Key nutrients are now coming to the fore as being vital for protection and so important in good recovery too.
So Part One - today - is about some easy ways to supercharge your health.
Here are my top tips to get you going.
1. EAT REAL FOOD
Your body needs real, unprocessed food to stay healthy and not the processed foods you kid yourself are OK for you to eat. Focus on eating natural, unrefined, unprocessed food as much as you can and cut out (or at least cut back on) sugar.
That means focusing on eating meat, fish, eggs and vegetarian sources of protein like tofu, beans, lentils and chickpeas, and nuts and seeds, plus a broad range of fruit and vegetables. Follow the 80/20 rule (for the avoidance of doubt, this means eating healthily 80% of the time – think fresh apples rather than apple juice, or wholegrain bread instead of a white bread butty).
2. ENJOY ‘HAPPY TUMMY’ FOODS
Did you know that up to 80% of your immunity to germs and disease is in your digestive system? The mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) in the gut is part of the first line of immune defence so getting the right balance between beneficial or ‘good’ gut bacteria and the ‘bad’ or potentially pathogenic bacteria is key.
How to do this:
The gut environment takes a beating year after year, owing to poor diets, too much sugar, stress, antibiotics and other factors. Even if you have no obvious tummy troubles, digestive health is vital, so it’s worth the extra effort to take care of it.
Add probiotic and prebiotic foods to your diet, as these re-populate the gut with good bacteria and feed them well enough to crowd out bad bacteria.
Here are some gut-friendly choices to get you started:
Organic, probiotic, natural yoghurt – sometimes called ‘live’ yoghurt.
Always buy full-fat yoghurt, as the 0% or no-fat options have increased levels of milk sugars – and fat isn’t the enemy, either in life or in weight loss.
Miso soup or miso bouillon paste (add these to soups and stews).
Oats (soak first, as you would to make overnight oats, in order to release the goodness).
Onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes.
Cooked, then cooled, potatoes.
3. SERVE CHICKEN SOUP
Did you hear that chicken soup is great when you’re unwell? If you thought it was just an old wives’ tale, you’d be wrong. Research suggests that a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup can slow the speed at which neutrophils move around your body. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and part of the immune system, protecting your body from infection. When the neutrophils move slowly, there’s a greater chance of them becoming more concentrated in the areas of your body that need the most healing.
Studies have shown chicken soup to be particularly helpful in reducing symptoms in upper respiratory system infections.
THAI-STYLE CHICKEN SOUP
This lovely soup contains garlic and ginger (known for their antiviral qualities).
For the paste
1 large red chilli, seeded
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ onion, roughly chopped
For the soup
1 tbsp coconut oil
400g can coconut milk
400ml chicken stock
2 tbsp xylitol (or ½ tsp stevia)
2 chicken breasts, cut into small dice
100g broccoli, cut into small florets
Handful sugar snap peas, halved
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped
4 spring onions, sliced
To make the spice paste, tip all the paste ingredients into a food processor, then add 4 tbsp of the coconut milk and whizz to form a paste.
Heat the coconut oil in a large pan, add the spice paste and cook for 1–2 mins. Add the rest of the coconut milk, stock and xylitol (or stevia). Bring to the boil then gently simmer for 7–10 mins.
Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 2–3 mins.
Tip in the broccoli and cook for a further minute, before adding the sugar snap peas and cooking for another minute.
Pour into bowls and sprinkle over the chopped coriander and spring onions to serve.
4. COOK WITH HERBS & SPICES
Adding flavour to food is a smart way to include delicious immune boosters on your plate.
Garlic is a potent superfood. It is antimicrobial, thanks to the active ingredient allicin, which helps fight viruses, and has been used for thousands of years to boost the immune system and prevent sickness. To make the most of allicin, crush, chop or grate the garlic cloves and allow them to sit for a few minutes. This releases more allicin. Once formed, it is fairly resistant to heat.
Most culinary herbs contain anti-inflammatory properties due to their phytonutrients, but oregano and thyme are particularly rich. Spice up your cooking with turmeric and ginger, too, as these are well-documented immune boosters.
5. SAY NO TO SUGAR
Even if you don’t consider yourself a sugar addict, it’s worth taking a look at how much you do consume – and trying to swap sugary treats for something more wholesome.