Nutrition & Lifestyle Tips During Covid-19
Updated: May 26, 2020
Here are my top five tips to stay healthy during this unprecedented time. I know it really can be anxiety inducing when you see bare shelves in the supermarket, can no longer workout in your favourite gym/studio and we have uncertainty around our jobs & what the future holds. The one thing we can control is how we respond to this, how we treat our bodies & how we spend the extra few hours that some of us now have as a result of working from home. I hope you find some of these tips useful*, please leave me any comments below or email me.
1. Get a variety of fruit & veg in your diet
The basics of any naturopathic nutrition approach always include eating the rainbow to ensure we are getting all the vitamins and minerals we need which will help boost our immunity. A recent study found that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables (and therefore antioxidants & phytonutrients) led to both a reduction in inflammatory markers and an enhanced immunity (Hosseini et al. 2018). Typically, we should be eating around 10 pieces of veg and fruit per day with 8 veg & 2 fruits (WHO recommends we have 400g per day). Whilst some shops may be limited in terms of what they have available, I’ve found that all the fresh fruits and vegetables have been in stock. Frozen veg and fruits would be a good option too although I have found some of these aisles bare in my local store. I have heard that some corner shops are good options as people seem to be going to the chain supermarkets. An example of getting this rainbow in over the course of the day (e.g. 3 portions at breakfast, 3 portions at lunch, 2 snacks plus 2-3 portions at dinner) would look something like this: Breakfast smoothie with spinach, banana & berries or scrambled eggs with peas mixed in, wilted spinach & avocado, apple for a snack, lunch of a homemade soup or salad bowl with 2-3 veggies in there, hummus & crudités for a snack & dinner of a mixed bean chili or a lentil spaghetti bowl with some onions, red peppers & maybe even grated carrot thrown in (of course meat can all be added to these).
2. Top up your vitamin D
This is essential for bone health but also to support our immune systems. We rely on sun exposure to our skin to make vitamin D so try to get outside on sunnier days and ensure you at least get some sun on your skin for 20 mins per day. Although this is harder in cooler climates, use this self-isolation period to get out for your daily exercise for a run, walk or workout in the park. We should be mindful not to supplement vitamin D without being tested for this. If you are interested in testing, Thriva (https://thriva.co/) do home testing kits which are pretty affordable and easy to navigate. They have a health check kit which covers off Vit D as well as other things like B12, Iron & Folate. Supplementing Vitamin D between 800-2000IU/day is seen to be beneficial (Haines & Park, 2012) and I usually recommend clients use a spray such as this one (https://betteryou.com/dlux1000) you can spray 1-2 times per day.
3. Eat mood boosting foods
This includes foods that are nourishing soul foods as well as the treats that make us feel good. Firstly, it’s important to ensure we are eating foods rich in Tryptophan as this is needed for us to make our happy hormone serotonin. Tryptophan rich foods include pumpkin seeds, soybeans, oats, buckwheat, beans, lentils, eggs, cheese, most meat (chicken & turkey are particularly high), fish (salmon, tuna and halibut are the top 3) & shellfish (particularly crab). Foods that contain omega 3 essential fatty acids are linked with lower levels of depression (Bozzatello et al. 2016). Opt for oily fish such as salmon, chia seeds & walnuts. In Ayurvedic practice, soul foods are foods which make us feel good and satisfy us - foods that are whole, fresh and organic where possible. I also like the concept that we should be eating according to our unique ratio of Dosha’s to keep these in balance. If you are interested in finding out more about this, Jasmine Hemsley’s website offers a short quiz to find out more about what Dosha you are (https://www.jasminehemsley.com/dosha). I really believe in eating a balanced diet and this includes eating foods we enjoy, even if they aren’t deemed 100% healthy. For me this is dark or milk (vegan) chocolate! The joy of eating a little of what we fancy is the ultimate mood booster.
4. Keep up your fitness regime
Exercise is not only good for strength, fitness and body health but also for our mental health. There are numerous studies on the benefits of exercise for mental health (Craft & Perna, 2004). My advice would be to start the day with 30 mins of exercise. It really sets you up for the day, energises you & I also find you often make healthier food choices if you start the day feeling fit & healthy. Shifting evening workouts to morning can really be a game changer. Many studios and gyms are offering free Instagram live workouts and you can find a lot of workouts on YouTube or Amazon Prime. Now we are on lock down, we all have a little more time to squeeze in some more movement during the day.
5. Try to keep a daily structure
Working from home can feel a little hard at first but if you can structure your day as you did before then it really can help keep you feeling motivated and focused. For example, go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day. Workout and shower/get ready as you normally would. I usually have breakfast at my ‘desk’ around 9am just after my first team call of the day. Lunchtime is around 1pm and I have usually got some left-over food from dinner the night before – this is a great tip in case you were losing the will to live wondering what to have for lunch every day! My day ends around 5pm and I do try to stick to this otherwise you can find you have no separation between your working day and your personal time. It’s so important to have time in the evening to wind down and it doesn’t always have to mean a night in front of Netflix. Finish those books that have been sitting around for months, organise your closet, take a bath.
I hope you have found this helpful, expect to see some more posts from me in the next few weeks
* please note that I am not able to diagnose or treat any symptoms, these are my own thoughts & knowledge but if you do have any symptoms at all, please contact your GP.