A pandemic is the perfect time to rethink the value of food and nutrition in your life.
The right choices of foods, along with other health-promoting behaviors, can help you lower your vulnerability to COVID-19 by lowering your risk for the diseases it targets.
We have another epidemic going on in our country. An epidemic of lifestyle diseases — the ones that increase our risk for dying from not only the virus, but from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and even some cancers. Our lifestyle choices are under our control, and it’s never to late to get started on making better choices.
Now is the time to do what we can do to control the spread of this dangerous virus by wearing masks, social distancing, limiting our gathering frequency and numbers and being healthy. Being healthy is not just the absence of disease, it’s much more than that.
Good health empowers us to cope better and feel better, both in mind and body, during turbulent times. Focusing on good nutrition can help you lower stress and inflammation while keeping your blood sugar stable — preventing mood swings, irritability and lethargy. Good nutrition supports immunity against all viruses and builds resilience, while enabling you to tap into more energy. We call this our hidden metabolic health.
What are the most important steps that you can take right now? Here’s a list to help you get started.
Add more fiber to your diet. Fiber helps control blood sugar, weight, regularity and fights inflammation. Swap out refined carbohydrates with high fiber, nutrient rich ones like whole grains, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat breads and tortillas.
Eat more beans, peas and lentils. For quick meal prep, choose canned ones (low sodium is best), drain them and add them to cold salads, casseroles, pilafs, soups or pasta dishes.
Aim for five servings of vegetables per day. A serving is just ½ cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw greens. Start with breakfast with a veggie-packed omelet or avocado and arugula on toast. Hit your target by eating two veggie servings at lunch and dinner, or by adding one in for a snack (try raw carrots and pea pods, for example).
Choose healthy fats. Healthy fats help support brain, eye, heart health and fights inflammation.
Eat fish at least two to three times per week, and include fattier fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and herring that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. In addition to fish, add nuts, avocado and extra-virgin olive oil to your daily diet.
Limit nutrient-poor foods. Limiting empty calories allows room for more nutritious foods and lowers inflammation.
Skip the sugary drinks and choose water, low-fat milk or unsweetened drinks with meals. Avoid eating out-of-the box foods like crackers, chips, cookies, instant rice or pasta dishes and refined sugary cereals. Choose fresh fruit (or an ounce of dark chocolate) for dessert or snacks instead of cookies, candy, pastries and other sweets.
Kim Larson is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health and wellness coach. She is the author of “Reducing Blood Pressure for Beginners: A Cookbook for Eating and Living Well.” Visit www.totalhealthrd.com or www.facebook.com/totalhealthnutrition for more. Follow her on Twitter @healthrd. Disclaimer: This is for information only and not intended as personal medical advice.