The global lockdown has caused widespread panic and anxiety all over the world. Adapting to a significantly new lifestyle under quarantine can be challenging, to the extent that even our eating habits have been transformed. Ms Salma S. Khan – Nutrition Consultant & Health Writer takes a look at how we can optimise our nutritional wellbeing, whilst at the same time strengthening our immunity.
Never Skip Breakfast: Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day and has been reported to improve memory, enhance mood, support hormonal balance and boost immunity. A healthy daily breakfast has also been found to boost metabolism and consequently lead to efficient weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. Not being pressed for time to rush out the door in the mornings means that we now have more time to prepare breakfast. If you’re not a breakfast person, try an easy to digest immunity boosting protein smoothie using either vegan protein powder or ground nuts and seeds to keep blood sugar levels stable. Add in fruit of your choice such as a handful of antioxidant rich mixed berries with a banana, along with almond milk. For a more solid breakfast option prepare a vegetable omelette, protein waffles or muesli.
Eat three Daily Healthy Balanced Meals: Establish a regular eating routine – Skipping any meal is never a good idea in the long term and has been found to increase the risk of diabetes, weight gain and hormonal imbalances. Boost your health with nourishing food, and plan your meals so that they are well balanced. Make sure that you incorporate sufficient protein along with some healthy starchy carbs for energy, vegetables and ‘good’ fats. For example grilled salmon or bean burgers with a salad and brown rice or sweet potato mash. Stockpile on practical healthy ingredients that’ll last you a long time just in case you need to self isolate e.g. brown rice, quinoa, fonio (a new super-grain on the market), buckwheat noodles, lentils, tinned or dried beans, wholemeal flour or gluten-free teff flour to prepare your own tortillas. Not to mention frozen goods such as meat, fish, fruit (e.g. berries) and vegetables.
Snack Nutritiously: Instead of snacking on processed junk foods like crisps, biscuits and cakes, choose your snacks wisely. Get organised and prepare some healthy snacks in advance, this way you’ll reduce the temptation to snack unhealthily. Chia seed puddings are easy to prepare, simply soak 1/3 cup of chia seeds in some fresh or pure-pressed juice for a boost of immune boosting antioxidants, protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3. Or blitz up a quick chocolate spread using mood boosting cacao powder, maple syrup and hazelnuts for a protein kick to help keep you feeling fuller for longer – Spread on top of a cracker or simply consume with a spoon. In addition, stock up on some healthy ready prepared snacks such as rice cakes, sweet potato crackers, protein rich snack bars, dried fruit, trail mix, nut and seed butters.
Watch Your Fluid Intake: Be mindful of your fluid intake to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Staying hydrated with water is a way of naturally helping to eliminate toxins from the body. However be mindful of over consuming caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea, as these drinks may cause the body to dehydrate. Avoid suppressing the immune system with sugary fizzy drinks, as well as those loaded with harmful artificial sweeteners. Choose fresh or pure-pressed juices over concentrated varieties and opt instead for herbal teas such as chamomile, hibiscus, elderberry and rosehip tea that are rich in antioxidants – Just what we need right now! Or how about a mood lifting and stress busting hot chocolate prepared using cacao powder, honey, coconut milk and ashwagandha that has been found to minimise the release of the stress hormone Cortisol.
Try Superfoods: Along with iron rich cacao powder and stress busting ashwagandha, there are plenty of other nutrient rich superfoods that can be incorporated into a smoothie or milkshake. Top superfood powders include barley grass, wheatgrass, spirulina, chlorella and acai berry powder. Not to mention Vitamin C rich baobab and camu camu powder. So if your struggling to get hold of good quality supplements during the pandemic lockdown, stock up on superfood powders. Matcha, a potent antioxidant rich green tea can also be used within smoothies or simply consumed in warm milk. Matcha however contains caffeine that is released steadily into the bloodstream, unlike the caffeine found in regular tea and coffee that is released rapidly – So it’s best to consume matcha green tea during the day.
Use Supplements: Under the guidance of a nutritional practitioner, take some supplements to enhance your health. Top supplements suggested to clients include good quality multivitamins geared to support individual needs, omega-3 supplements free of contaminants, slow release forms of vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D and probiotics. Other advanced supplements and formulas may also be suggested according to each unique case. It’s important to seek advice regarding supplementation so that you consume therapeutic doses, as opposed to simple maintenance doses that may not be doing much for you. Good quality supplement brands are based on scientific research and use forms of nutrients that are more bioavailable to the body.
Get Quality Sleep: It has been reported that a vast number of people have been experiencing coronavirus anxiety that has led to insomnia. On the other hand, others are using the lockdown as a holiday and forcing themselves to stay awake till late, or even all night just to binge-watch a TV series and movies. An unhealthy sleep routine, along with chronic lack of sleep have both been recognized as health hazards. Lack of sleep, as well as irregular sleep routines have been associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, accelerated aging, depression, lack of concentration, obesity and reduced immunity. Interestingly, research suggests that our bodies do their best healing while we sleep between the hours of 10pm to 2am. Remember every minute before midnight is golden, so get to bed early to enhance your health during the lockdown.