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COVID-19 Nutrition 101: Let Food Be Your Medicine! 

A walk through the grocery aisles early this morning was a little shocking: The produce section was overflowing and the packaged processed food aisles were … empty.

The Number One thing you can do to support your immune system is: Eat Real Food

Your immune system is fueled by the food you eat. After all, over 75% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. This means that every bite of food you eat influences your gut microbiome, which in turn determines your body’s ability to mount the appropriate immune response to invaders like COVID-19. 

Stroll on by the cookies, the sweets, the empty-calorie crackers, the high sodium frozen dinners and opt for packaged foods with minimal ingredients. Take a peek at the ingredient list and use this litmus test, “Am I willing to eat each ingredient with a spoon?

Here are 6 no-nonsense things you can do right now to help boost your immune system and keep your body healthy.

Choose whole, nutrient-dense foods. 

Eat the rainbow! Focus on fruits and vegetables of all colors — They  are filled with antioxidants that support your immune system, and fiber that feeds your healthy gut bacteria. Choosing foods that mirror the colors of a rainbow ensures that you eat a large variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that have enormous protective and healing powers.  

These rainbow foods are particularly good right now: 

Green produce helps boost the immune system and detoxify the body.

All healthy diets require green-colored produce and that is particularly true now. In fact, research suggests that green vegetables are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly. (1)  Include green vegetables, such as arugula, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, green beans, kale, peas, romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and zucchini. Enjoy fruit, such as avocado, green grapes, and kiwi. 

Orange and yellow-colored produce help improve immune function.

Chock full of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A and vitamin C, these include vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, all varieties of winter squash, yellow summer squash, orange and yellow peppers and golden beets. It also includes fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, papayas, pineapple and peaches. 

Pro Tip: A great way to ensure you’re getting enough vegetables is to make your plate at lunch and dinner is at least half vegetables. 

Here are a few resources for getting organic, healthy foods delivered:

Check out Misfits Market — they will send you a box of seasonal produce at up to 40% less than what you would pay at the grocery store. (Use the code COOKWME-DY5XFK for $25 off.)

You might have access to a local CSA that will deliver to your door. Do a google search for your area or you can start with https://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Check out Butcher Box — they deliver 100% grass-fed beef, free range organic chicken and heritage breed pork directly to your door. 

Ditch sugar and processed foods.

The stress and anxiety of COVID-19, combined with “Sheltering at Home” creates the perfect recipe for craving sugary and processed foods — they temporarily make us feel energized but a big crash comes shortly afterward. Beyond that sugar and processed foods SUPPRESS your immune system. To help you kick the sugar habit, enroll in our 7-Day Sugar Detox Here

Eat high quality protein foods.

Protein is critical for immune function. What’s an adequate amount? Roughly half your bodyweight in grams a day. These include plant-based proteins, such as legumes and nuts and seeds, as well as organic, clean, humanely-sourced animal protein. 

Plant-Based Protein Superstars:

  •     1 cup cooked lentils = 18 grams
  •     3 tbsp. hemp seeds = 10 grams
  •     I cup cooked quinoa = 6 grams
  •     3 ounces extra firm tofu = 9 grams
  •     1 cup chopped broccoli = 8 grams
  •     ¼ cup raw almonds = 8 grams
  •     ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds = 7 grams
  •     2 tbsp. chia seeds = 6 grams
  •     2 cups chopped kale = 4.5 grams

Wild-caught salmon has 13 grams, chicken has 18 grams, and ground beef, 11 grams — all per 2 ounces.

Eat cultured and fermented foods to feed your microbiome and support immune health.

Include sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, chickpea miso, yogurt made from coconut or almonds. These foods give your body a dose of healthful probiotics — live micro-organisms crucial to a healthy intestinal microbiome (the microbial community in the gut) — which plays a role in supporting the immune system and warding off damaging inflammation inside the body. 

Make friends with mushrooms.

Mushrooms are medicinal!  They have immune-boosting polysaccharides that have anti-viral, antibiotic properties. Shiitake, maitake and oyster mushrooms are easy to prepare — a simple roast, sauté or simmer will do. In fact, you can throw them in everything — soups, omelettes, stir fries, stews, vegetable dishes. 

Add garlic, onions, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, oregano and more when cooking. 

These herbs and spices not only add flavor to your food, they are anti-inflammatory powerhouses. Add them to soups, stews, vegetables, oatmeal, or just about anything! Did you know that garlic and onions offer wide spectrum antimicrobial propertiess.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Your body depends on it, as does your immune system. Water and herbal teas,of course, but soups and broths also count! Stay away from fruit and vegetables juices — they are full of sugar (yes, even the so-called healthy ones.) 

Wondering what else you can do?

Join Dr. Blum’s FREE Friday Open Office Hours Q & A, to have all your lingering questions answered: Register Now

Schedule a 45-Minute Immune Support Consult with one of our healthcare practitioners.  Schedule an informational call here

Read my recent blog post: 10 Ways to Reduce the Coronavirus Stress Response

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

Resources:

  1. Ying Li, Silvia Innocentin, David R. Withers, Natalie A. Roberts, Alec R. Gallagher, Elena F. Grigorieva, Christoph Wilhelm, Marc Veldhoen. Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation. Cell, 13 October 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.09.025