With the whole country shutdown and the majority of the population quarantined at home, we need to find ways to stay healthy physically and mentally.
Our favorite restaurants are closed, no access to parks or gyms, limited interaction with your friends and family, confinement in the house 24/7, overwhelming news on TV – all of this can take a toll on anybody.
The key to surviving this period and any other isolation is to have a plan! This includes a well-stocked healthy kitchen and pantry, scheduled regular exercise, telephone or videoconferencing with your family, friends and colleagues, as well as time to relax and meditate.
Start with well balanced nutrition
Focus on nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy proteins that provide amino acids — healthy proteins are needed to support a well-functioning immune system. There is evidence that various micro- and macro-nutrient deficiencies alter our immune response to various diseases. You need to stock your kitchen with the right food:
Eggs are rich in antioxidants, protein, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline. They are important to have on hand and could be used for any meal of the day and are needed in most baked goods. Eggs can last in the fridge 3-5 weeks and can even last up to 1 year in the freezer.
Cheeses provide calcium, protein, fatty acids, and other vitamins and minerals. Unopened cheeses can last 2-4 months in the fridge, especially hard, aged cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, and Swiss. Opened cheeses last about 3 weeks.
Yogurt, ricotta, farmer and cottage cheese, as well as kefir are great sources of calcium , protein, and immune boosting probiotics. They can last up to a month in the fridge.
Vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, mixed leafy greens, butternut squash, and many others are a great source of immune boosting nutrients, vitamins and fiber. They can last for 1-2 weeks.
Fruits and berries are also rich in vitamins, minerals and immune supporting flavonoids. Apples, plums, pears and citrus can lasts for many weeks, but berries might go bad in a week.
Mushrooms are also great immune boosters, as well as a source of vitamin D, fiber, and protein. They can last up to 2 weeks, and even longer if they are dried.
Please follow the expiration date on the packaging.
Frozen fruits and vegetables retain most, if not all of their health benefits and can last for many months.
Frozen bread, especially if it is sourdough, 100% whole wheat, oat, flax, and 100% sprouted rye bread, or gluten free if you are trying to avoid wheat/gluten.
Frozen fish, poultry, meat provide needed protein and minerals, and fish is a great source of healthy fat.
No ice cream or frozen yogurt, as they contain too much sugar and empty calories, better to replace with frozen fruits or even home made avocado ice cream: https://ketopots.com/keto-avocado-ice-cream , https://sugarfreelondoner.com/low-carb-chocolate-avocado-ice-cream/ , https://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/low-carb-mexican-chocolate-avocado-ice-cream/ and multiple other recipes.
Spices like turmeric, angelica, anise, caraway, chervil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, gotu kola, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, and others including salt and pepper, are full of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant phytochemicals, and are essential for cooking. They can last for a couple of years.
Potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes, especially red potatoes, are rich in macro- and micro-nutrients, antioxidants and fiber, are also gluten free and quite filling. Remember many of their nutrients are concentrated in the outer skin, peeling the potato can remove a significant portion of the fiber and mineral content. To de-starch them – cut, wash, and soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Sweet potatoes and yams are also a good source of protein. They can be kept in dry cool area for months.
Stock and broth contain multiple nutrients and collagen, marrow, amino acids, and minerals. Make sure you go for low-sodium and MSG-free stock and broth, and use them when cooking anything, from soups to sides, for a great boost of flavor.
Aromatics, like garlic, onion, ginger, and chili peppers provide a unique set of health benefits, including antiviral, antibacterial, immune stimulating and antioxidant activities. All will last a long time in cool, dry places.
Ancient grains, like quinoa, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, farro, kamut, as well as rice, especially black and brown rice are important sources of vitamin B, fiber, protein and iron, as well as antioxidants. These can be stored in a cool, dry pantry for up to 6 months.
Gluten free pasta, like lentil pasta, bean pasta, spinach pasta, chick pea pasta, and others are rich in minerals, fiber, protein, and some are fortified with omega-3. Pastas are shelf-stable and make for quick and healthy meals.
Snacks, look for healthier options, like nuts, seeds, popcorn, chick pea puffs, Scandinavian fiber crispbread, rice cakes that will satisfy your cravings and provide health benefits.
Other long lasting items include: shelf stable milk, coffee/teas, canned vegetables, canned soups, jarred pasta sauce, dried/canned beans, canned/jarred fish, root and hardy vegetables, baking supplies, cooking oils, and condiments.
Do not keep any inflammatory foods, like cookies, candies and sweets, highly processed food, containing high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, pretzels, or smoked meat, as all of these can suppress your immune system.
Get regular exercise
Just like a healthy diet, exercise is a requirement for good health and can contribute to a strong immune system. Exercise can stimulate your immune response and improves circulation, which may allow the cells and components of your immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
There are many ways to get exercise at home, such as:
- Workout apps (search the app store!) or DVDs (search your archives!)
- YouTube videos for cardio or resistance training
- Calisthenics and body weight-based exercises (like push-ups or planks)
- Going for a walk, run, or bike ride.
You need fresh air daily to stay happy and healthy, but remember keeping a 6 feet distance from other people.
Do not overexercise, as it will suppress your immune system.
Take time to relax and de-stress
Stress drives the production of cortisol and epinephrine, which are known to diminish immune system response.
The following practices may be helpful in managing occasional stress:
- Practice mindful meditation & yoga (there are many apps and guided YouTube meditations available)
- Take a break from screens and noise
- Listen to soothing music
- Make time for favorite activities such as writing, painting, or woodworking
- Enjoy a warm caffeine-free drink such as herbal tea
Stock up on good books to keep your mind busy and distracted from depressing news.
Do not forget puzzles, board games to share quality time with your family while in social isolation.
Limit time watching or listening to the news, most of them are depressing.
Make sure to get plenty of sleep
A lack of sleep can adversely affect your immune system. We need a good 8 hours of restful, restorative sleep. The best way is to:
- Stick to a sleep schedule, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Avoid caffeine, sweets, easy digestible carbs, and eating a large meal for 3 hours before sleeping
- Allow time to relax, meditate, and wind down before going to sleep
- Avoid bright screens in the bedroom or prior to going to bed, use blue light blocking glasses
- Limit exposure to TV, computers, video games for at least 2 hours before bedtime, read a book
- Start journaling your thoughts and experiences
- Consider melatonin for a more restful sleep
Remember, staying healthy is of paramount importance now more than ever. Keeping these healthy staples on hand will help you through the quarantine and keep your body and immune system strong.
For more information on a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise please see the previous blogs.
For more information on a healthy lifestyle, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Val Koganski at 215-750-7000 or https://www.NewtownInternalMedicine.com