Coronavirus-Fighting Foods

It's crazy times with the expanding presence of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. But I think we should all take a moment to step back for a fact-check.

An editorial published February 28, 2020 in The New England Journal of Medicine cites the mortality rate of a COVID-19 infection may be as small as 1%. [REF:https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2002387 ]

That's not much different than the death rate from seasonal influenza we already live with every flu season. There are over 290,000 deaths each year from seasonal influenza. Can you imagine the level of anxiety if we published daily death numbers every year from influenza?

In contrast, SARS and MERS had death rates of about 10% and 36% respectively. Those rates were scary.

COVID-19? I'm not too worried.

You’re far better to save your energy for concern about general flu prevention than to get specifically worked up over COVID-19.

Every season has the potential to be "flu season." So you should always take precautionary steps. If you were smart, you got a flu shot already to prevent getting influenza in the first place, or at least weaken its impact.

And you can follow some simple immune-boosting nutrition steps to help prevent getting the flu too.

You see, real food is one of the best ways to fight back. An immunity-boosting diet is a strong  prevention angle.

Here are eight eating tips to keep all these viruses – flus, colds and other coronaviruses – from knocking you for a loop any time of the year.
 

Drink Up!

Keep yourself hydrated. There is no “8 glasses a day” rule to get worked up about. Follow your thirst, plus a little bit more.

Water maintains and improves your immune system. It’s needed throughout all your body’s metabolic processes. Don’t let dehydration be a burden. If you do get the flu, keep up the water and clear fluid intake to replace everything the bug is draining from you.
 

Plants Are Partners

If it’s grown in the soil, it’s going to be good for you.

Your liver is your natural detox system. And the liver loves cruciferous vegetables. These are broccoli, cauliflower and kale.

Colour is a key to plants’ immune systems too. Eating a wide spectrum of plant colours will give you a broad range of phytonutrient intake. All these nutrients will support your immune functions.
 

Omit Added Sugars

You do need sugars (also known as carbohydrates) to fuel your workouts. But only what you need, and no more. Too much sugar intake will increase inflammation. And that will depress your ability to fight off viruses like influenza.

Stick with sugars you find naturally in your fruit and dairy products. There’s no need for athletes to be eating sugar-loaded drinks or candy.
 

Include Some Coconut Oil

Coconut oil contains Lauric Acid, which has antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Of course, you can use it in your cooking and baking, instead of butter. But did you know it’s good for your teeth and skin too?

Try a “pull” where you swish a spoonful in your mouth for a couple of minutes and then spit it out. Spread a little on any dry skin patches you might have.

Some cheap coconut oils are processed with hexane, an oil extracting chemical. Instead. Look for organic cold pressed coconut oil.
 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Your Fishy Friends

Omega-3s are abundant in salmon, sardines, oysters and anchovies. If you’re not keen on fish, walnuts are also a good source.

Omega-3 helps reduce inflammation. And the DHA in fish oil has been shown to boost white blood cell activity, which helps your immune system fight pathogens. [REF: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130401111545.htm]

There’s also published evidence that omega-3s reduce anxiety symptoms. That can help with all aspects of daily life, not just when reading about the latest coronavirus news. [REF: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/omega-3s-for-anxiety]
 

Immunity Starts in Your Gut

Your gut is the entire tract from your mouth to your, well, that last exit for the indigestibles. The gut is the single biggest interface between you and the outside world. Upwards of 80% of your immune system cells are in your gut. [REF: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10564096]

It’s not only responsible for digestion, but think about its complex task of rejecting what doesn’t belong in you…

Your gut talks to every other organ in your body too. Your entire healthy body must begin with a healthy gut.

Probiotic-rich foods are the best way to boost your gut health. Any fermented food with live and active cultures will help. Yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi are useful and tasty additions to immune-boosting daily eating.

Prebiotics are the indigestible fibres that probiotics ferment to help them grow. So, eat not only probiotic foods, but also good soluble fibre sources, like what are found in this next tip …
 

Fibre That Keeps You More Than Just Regular

Dietary fibre in general keeps your gut moving smoothly. There’s a particular fibre that probiotic bacteria love to ferment deep in your colon: soluble fibre. [REF: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705355/]

Apples, citrus fruit, bananas, oat bran and barley are great sources of soluble fibre. Fruit also is a great source of vitamin C, which is an old-school immune system booster.

Yes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a real thing!
 

Vitamin D Evidence Too

Finally, take your daily vitamin D throughout the winter. We don’t get enough sunlight in Canada for our bodies to make their own. Good food sources, though, are eggs, fortified milk and fish.

A 2017 systematic review published in the British Medical Journal showed vitamin D protected against acute respiratory tract infections. In other words, vitamin D protected against cold and flu viruses. [REF: https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583]
 

What’s In Your Fridge?

You’re already an active athlete. That puts you far ahead of the general population when it comes to immune system health. Keep it that way with these staples in your fridge and pantry:
  • Apples, oranges, bananas and most every other fruit
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, kale and as many other fresh vegetables you can think of. You can’t have too many vegetables in your diet
  • Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, trout and sardines
  • Eggs and milk
  • Yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Oatmeal, whole wheat and barley (sorry, liquid barley, aka beer, doesn’t count!)
  • Coconut oil
  • Water (ok, maybe the occasional beer too, but it still doesn’t count as barley!!)

And finally, a couple of non-eating tips

  • Wash your hands often. Especially before food prep, eating and any time your hands are near your face (like flossing and brushing your teeth – dental health is immune health too).
  • Second, stop touching your face altogether, mainly your nose and mouth.

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