The recent COVID-19 (Corona Virus SARS-CoV-2) has shook the world since 2019. We here in South Africa are new victims of the virus and are currently in lockdown for 3 weeks. During this time there is still much that can be done to promote our immune systems. This maximizes our chances of fighting off infections of any sort that could be worsened with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. There are particular ways of handling food and its preparation to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus. There are also certain organic foods we as the green community can grow and incorporate more into the food we eat.
GENERAL COVID-19 SAFETY:
Wash your hands before and after touching anything. This is important after going outside, touching your face, coughing, blowing your nose or sneezing. This includes washing with clean water and soap for at least 20 seconds. The only alternative to washing your hands is using hand sanitizer over 60 % alcohol.
PROPER FOOD SAFETY:
Apply this sanitary approach to the kitchen and home in general. Keep all areas clean and disinfected. A special mention for keeping your working surfaces clean as well as washing all fresh produce.
If you have stocked up on ready-to-eat foods for a long period, you may need to remove the meat components from these that may spoil . Refrigerate all your leftovers within 2 hours to keep from contamination and spoiling.
FOODS TO OPTIMIZE THE BODY
VITAMIN D FOODS
Vitamin D is imperative to kill pathogens causing infection but is the most vulnerable vitamin during lockdown. This is due to the fact that a big source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. Make sure to spend extra time outside or sitting in the sun if your living arrangements allow it. If not, increase the amount of fortified soy, almond or rice milk; mushrooms; fortified orange juice; fortified tofu and fortified cereals in your food choice during lockdown. Vitamin D deficiency linked to autoimmune issues. This is when your body’s immune system attacks itself. This is a crucial issue in the mechanism of COVID-19 so this is a big one to watch out for.
VITAMIN C FOODS
Vitamin C has always been a big priority around the “flu season” so it is no shock to find it in the list. Vitamin C is linked to white blood cells integrity and formation. These are the soldiers of the immune system. Boost the body’s natural defense force by planting and eating more Citrus fruits (limes, lemons ,oranges, naartjies) as well as berries, kiwi fruits, tomatoes, chillies and peppers and broccoli. Try hit your RDA (recommended daily allowance) as you urinate out excess vitamin C.
VITAMIN E FOODS
Vitamin E works with vitamin C to fight the effects of oxidative stress. This state occurs when the body is fighting infection and runs the risk of furthering inflammation which is a key feature of COVID-19. Boost the number of leafy green vegetables such as spinach and lettuce, nuts and vegetable oils in your food selection and garden during this lockdown.
Vitamin A is crucial in the immune system fighting COVID-19 as it protects the cellular structure of the respiratory system and the stomach. These are 2 target areas of the COVID-19 virus. Vitamin A is also crucial in the formation of antibodies to fight off the virus after infection. Leafy green vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds as well as whole grain foods are each an incredible source of Vitamin A. Include these in your food choices during lockdown.
2 minerals in particular are key in the fight against COVID-19 during lockdown. These are iron and zinc. Iron helps to fight infection and is found in legumes, spinach, lentils, tofu, amaranth, fortified cereals and potatoes. Zinc is important in the respiratory airways as well as in helping the immune system after oxidative stress. Ingredients high in zinc to include in your lockdown food choices are chickpeas, seeds including chia and pumpkin seeds, wholemeal bread, quinoa and cashew nuts.
PROMOTING HEALTHY GUT BACTERIA
The microbes in the stomach and the microbiome in large is imperative in a healthy body. This is the environment inside your gut. The more diverse the conditions in a person’s gut, the healthier that person is. They are better armed to beat infections attacking the body during COVID-19 infection. There is research linking the microbes in the gut with the regulation of inflammation and the immune system in general. Eating a diversity of nutrient rich food and controlling your body’s PH will aid with a healthy immune system.
Plants high in fibre such as whole grains, nuts and seeds, berries, fruits and vegetables. Cut out processed junk foods and replace it with healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil. Natural yoghurt and yeasty drinks are amazing for supporting your gut microbes.
Obviously one cannot manifest a garden full of fresh produce especially during lockdown. Get supplements of the above from your pharmacy which is still available during this lockdown. Keep an eye on your energy levels and other vitamin deficiency-related symptoms. Research them online and boost your intake of the vitamin you are deficient in.
FOODS TO AVOID
Sugar has negative affect on your immune system functioning. So be very careful in this lockdown with the amount of sugar in your daily teas and coffees which are very tempting when confined to the house.
Processed foods and junk foods deplete your body’s health. They compromise the immune system’s ability to respond to infection and stress. Avoid these in your food choices.
Food high in fat as well as red meat are quick to fry up when home all day but are very dangerous for your long-term health. They are bad for your cholesterol and blood system.