As the current lockdown measures are slowly relaxed and some of our freedom returns, what does that mean for your old routine? Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing friends while savouring the taste of my favourite ramen. You might be feeling a bit nervous about venturing out and worrying about the risk of infection still. Are there any steps you can take to adapt to this new norm, and support your immune system too?
1. While there is evidence in the laboratory that corona virus 19 can survive on food packaging, so far there have been no reported cases that have actually been caught by contaminated food. This is most likely because the heat of cooking kills the virus, and so does the low pH of stomach acid if you were to ingest it. Instead it is important to regularly wash your hands, so that if you do touch any contaminated surfaces you minimise accidently touching your face and risking infection.
This might be a great time for you to buy a reusable cup, to reduce any possible risk of contamination, while also being more sustainable for the environment. Likewise taking a packed lunch has the benefits of being cheaper, more environmentally friendly with less packaging, and you have full control over the ingredients. Instead of a takeaway sandwich, why not treat yourself to a trendy new lunch box, (I love https://black-blum.com), and take a healthy salad out. This brings me onto my next step.
2. Eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables. Not only are these packed with polyphenol chemicals, which are antioxidants and protect against damage, lowering your risk of death, cancer and heart disease, but they also are key factor in gut health.
3. Your gut plays a vital role in immunity and general health. Inside your gut, you have trillions of micro-organisms, including bacteria. Aim for 30g of fibre a day to help nurture your friendly gut bacteria and support your immune system. Fermented foods such as vegetables, kefir, kimchi and kombucha are also a great way of helping your microbiome.
4. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is primarily produced in your body with exposure to sunshine. Deficiency is common during autumn and winter in northern latitudes above 20 degrees (including the UK) and southern latitudes 20 degrees below the equator. The NHS and NICE advise all adults living in the UK should take a daily supplement throughout the year of 400IU, while younger people with known deficiency and those older than 60 should take 2000IU during winter as well. There are side effects of taking prolonged supplementation at higher levels, so this should be avoided.
While there is evidence that vitamin D deficiency might play a role in progression to a more severe illness with corona virus 19 infection, there is not yet evidence as to whether vitamin D supplementation could reverse this. However, given vitamin D plays such a crucial role in our bodies, it seems sensible to ensure that you have sufficient levels.
5. Terms such as ‘boosting your immunity’ are unscientific and generally used as clickbait. Serious infection with covid19, is thought to be due to an inflammatory cytokine storm, produced by an over active immune system, that causes collateral damage, while overzealously attacking the virus. Imagine then if you could ‘boost your immunity’ through food and supplements, the end result might be rather different to what you hoped for. Instead you can support optimal functioning of your immune system, by ensuring that you have a healthy diet. There is no evidence that items such as bone broth affect your immunity, (hear more about this on my myth busting course).
6. As well as eating a range of fruit and vegetables, enjoy whole grain carbohydrates (brown bread, brown rice, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, spelt, and millet), lean protein, a handful of nuts a day, legumes and pulses (beans, lentils), sprinkling of seeds, fermented food and healthy unsaturated fats such as avocado, and extra virgin olive oil.
7. From the current evidence, the people at greatest risk of serious consequences of covid19 are those with high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Improving your diet and following the tips I’ve outlined, can help improve these conditions.
8. It might be tempting to stock up on supplements such as vitamin C in the hope that they might prevent you from getting sick, but do they reduce your risk of getting a cold, or you to get better quicker? Sadly, for the general population there is no evidence of preventing infection, but it might help reduce the duration by approximately half a day of illness. More vitamin C does not equate to better protection, as excess vitamin C is not stored, but eliminated in the urine and may also cause abdominal cramps, nausea, headache, diarrhoea, and a possible increased risk of forming kidney stones.
Dr Harriet Holme – The Healthy eating Dr – studied medicine at the University of Cambridge and only deals in the science around food, not the fads.