Tips for Healthy Eating During Pandemic – NBC Los Angeles

Tips for Healthy Eating During Pandemic – NBC Los Angeles

  • October 20, 2020

Since a vaccine is still in the works to combat COVID-19, we’re left trying just about anything to stay as healthy a possible during a pandemic. One thing that everyone can all do, however, is to boost their immune system with healthy foods.

Health professionals tell NBC 7 if someone gets COVID-19 or the flu, or even both, it’ll most likely be much easier to recover if they’ve been eating foods rich in nutrients

These are immune-boosting foods that can help prepare your body to fight off a virus, cold or flu. Those who have a nutrient-packed diet will also find they sleep better and have more energy since they’re consuming the right minerals.

Nutritionists suggest you load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins for dietary success.

It’s also best to plan for groceries so that it could result in purchases of fewer processed, high-salt or high-sugar snacks.

“Processed foods in general, it’s basically synthetic. It’s made from a machine,” said Dr. Amy Lee, who is an expert in weight control, obesity and nutrition. “It’s nothing natural that we actually garden and plant and harvest. So our human bodies basically have to get used to and adapt to all these new synthetic ingredients that we weren’t used to before.”

Lee also suggests families create a schedule or a daily meal plan. A schedule is more predictable for everyone in a household and it can get all involved so they feel connected to the effort in some way, creating motivation.

You can also manage your environment to improve your diet.

If candy and chips aren’t in the kitchen cabinet, then you can’t eat them.

It’s also very important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Health experts recommend that you drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, but if you’re outside a lot or exercising, it should be more. Stay healthy!

Tips for Heating During Pandemic – NBC 7 San Diego

Tips for Heating During Pandemic – NBC 7 San Diego

  • October 20, 2020

Since a vaccine is still in the works to combat COVID-19, we’re left trying just about anything to stay as healthy a possible during a pandemic. One thing that everyone can all do, however, is to boost their immune system with healthy foods.

Health professionals tell NBC 7 if someone gets COVID-19 or the flu, or even both, it’ll most likely be much easier to recover if they’ve been eating foods rich in nutrients

These are immune-boosting foods that can help prepare your body to fight off a virus, cold or flu. Those who have a nutrient-packed diet will also find they sleep better and have more energy since they’re consuming the right minerals.

Nutritionists suggest you load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins for dietary success.

It’s also best to plan for groceries so that it could result in purchases of fewer processed, high-salt or high-sugar snacks.

“Processed foods in general, it’s basically synthetic. It’s made from a machine,” said Dr. Amy Lee, who is an expert in weight control, obesity and nutrition. “It’s nothing natural that we actually garden and plant and harvest. So our human bodies basically have to get used to and adapt to all these new synthetic ingredients that we weren’t used to before.”

Lee also suggests families create a schedule or a daily meal plan. A schedule is more predictable for everyone in a household and it can get all involved so they feel connected to the effort in some way, creating motivation.

You can also manage your environment to improve your diet.

If candy and chips aren’t in the kitchen cabinet, then you can’t eat them.

It’s also very important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Health experts recommend that you drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, but if you’re outside a lot or exercising, it should be more. Stay healthy!

Can Supplements Help Fight COVID-19? Here’s What We Know

Can Supplements Help Fight COVID-19? Here’s What We Know

  • October 19, 2020

By Laura Beil

Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream “This supplement could save you from coronavirus.


It also helps to have celebrity enthusiasts. When President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, his pill arsenal included Vitamin D and zinc. And in an Instagram chat with actress Jennifer Garner in September, infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci touted vitamins C and D as ways that might generally boost the immune system. “If you’re deficient in vitamin D,” he noted, “that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection. I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself, taking vitamin D supplements.”

But whether over-the-counter supplements can actually prevent, or even treat, COVID-19, is not clear. Since the disease is so new, researchers haven’t had much time for the kind of large experiments that provide the best answers. Instead, scientists have mostly relied on fresh takes on old data. Some studies have looked at outcomes of patients who routinely take certain supplements — and found some promising hints. But so far there’s little data from the kinds of scientifically rigorous experiments that give doctors confidence when recommending supplements.

Here’s what we know today about three supplements getting plenty of attention around COVID-19.

Vitamin D

What it is: Called “the sunshine vitamin” because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied supplements (SN: 1/27/19). Certain foods, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.

Why it might help: Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.

How it works for other infections: In 2017, the British Medical Journal published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement might help prevent respiratory infections, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.

But one key word here is deficient. That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that’s higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).

“If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn’t stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference,” says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.

And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.

What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19: Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.

In May, in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, Lanham-New and her colleagues published a summary of existing evidence and concluded that there’s only enough to recommend vitamin D to help with COVID-19 prevention for people who are deficient. That paper made inferences from how vitamin D works against other respiratory tract infections and immune health.

More than a dozen studies are now testing vitamin D directly for prevention and treatment, including a large one led by JoAnn Manson, a leading expert on vitamin D. An epidemiologist and preventive medicine physician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. That study will analyze if vitamin D can affect the course of a COVID-19 infection. The trial aims to recruit 2,700 people across the United States with newly diagnosed infections, along with their close household contacts.

The goal is to determine whether newly diagnosed people given high doses of vitamin D — 3,200 IU per day — are less likely than people who get a placebo to experience severe symptoms and need hospitalization. “The biological plausibility for a benefit in COVID is compelling,” she says, given the nutrient’s theoretical ability to impede the severe inflammatory reaction that can follow coronavirus infection. “However the evidence is not conclusive at this time.”

Zinc

What it is: Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.

Why it might help: It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.

How it works for other infections: Studies of using zinc for colds — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in BMJ Open did not find any value for zinc lozenges for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.

What we know about zinc and COVID-19: The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that hydroxychloroquine can’t prevent or treat COVID-19 (SN: 8/2/20).)

In July, researchers from Aachen University in Germany wrote in Frontiers of Immunology that current evidence “strongly suggests great benefits of zinc supplementation” based on looking at similar infections including SARS, another disease caused by a coronavirus. For example, studies suggest that giving zinc reduces the risk for death from a pneumonia infection. The researchers cite evidence that zinc might help prevent the virus from entering the body, and help slow the virus’s replication when it does.

Another review — also based on indirect evidence — published August 1 in Advances in Integrative Medicine also concluded that zinc might be helpful in people who are deficient.

In September, researchers from Hospital Del Marin Barcelona reported that among 249 patients studied, those who survived COVID had higher zinc levels in their plasma (an average of 63.1 mcg/dl) than those who died (43mcg/dl).

Overall, though, the jury is still out, says Suma Thomas, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, who in June led a team that reviewed the evidence for popular supplements in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. Given what’s already known, zinc could possibly decrease the duration of infection but not the severity of symptoms, she said, particularly among people who are deficient. About a dozen studies are now looking at zinc for COVID treatment, often with other drugs or supplements.

Thomas and her colleagues are comparing symptom severity and future hospitalization in COVID-19 patients who take zinc with and without high doses of vitamin C with those who receive ordinary care without the supplement. Results are expected soon, she says.

Vitamin C

What it is: Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It’s found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.

Why it might help: It’s a potent antioxidant that’s important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.

How it works for other infections: Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the Journal of Medical Virology, looked at what is already known about vitamin C and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, “suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions.”

But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies didn’t support the idea that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, “it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial.”

What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas’ study at the Cleveland Clinic.

In a review published online in July in Nutrition, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the vitamin may help prevent infection and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.

Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There’s still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful, the pair concluded in July in Drugs in Context. “It’s not really clear if it’s going to benefit patients,” Badowski says.

And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: “Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart.”

This story was originally published by Science News, a nonprofit independent news organization.

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How you could boost your immune system with nutrition

  • October 17, 2020

This week I am sharing tips on your immune system and foods that may help to boost it. I am sharing a recipe for nutritious chocolate spread — chocolate is something I crave as the weather gets colder, and this is a fabulous healthy homemade chocolate spread.

Our immune system is an intricate, complex, and amazing system. It protects us from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that try to gain entry to the body on a daily basis.

We all know that back-to-school time and the onset of winter weather can be challenging for our immune system. What we eat can affect our immunity; and good nutrition allows our body to respond quicker to threats.

To function properly, the cells of our immune system need a variety of nutrients.

Here are 10 nutrients, their function, and where you can find them:

1. Vitamin A: It helps to keep the membranes in our nose/throat healthy, these are a key line of defence to keep bacteria out. Vitamin A packed foods include carrots, sweet potato and spinach.

2. Vitamin C: This is an important antioxidant and helps to stimulate the formation of antibodies. It has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds. Vitamin C packed foods include red peppers, strawberries and broccoli.

3. Vitamin D: Helps to stimulate the cells in our body that fight infection. We can produce it in our skin following exposure to sunlight and can get it through our diet from foods like oily fish, eggs and fortified milk or can take it in supplement form. In Ireland, from October to March there is insufficient quality or quantity of sunlight for our body to synthesize enough Vitamin D to meet requirements, this means that many of us can benefit from a supplement during this time. I always take a Vit-D supplement from October – March.

4. Vitamin B6: This vitamin helps to make antibodies that fight off diseases. Fish, lean meats and poultry are good sources but one of the best sources is chickpeas.

5. Iron: Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Anemia decreases the body’s ability to transport oxygen in the blood — this can result in fatigue and suppressed immune function. Eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C and keep away from tea/coffee to boost its absorption. Iron-packed foods include red meat, leafy greens, and beans.

6. Zinc: This is essential for wound healing and has been shown to decrease the incidence of colds and reduce the duration of symptoms if you do get sick. Zinc-packed foods include meat, shellfish, dairy foods, and chickpeas.

7. Garlic: This has been used as both a food ingredient and medicine for centuries. It possesses antibacterial/antiviral properties. It is affordable, delicious, and easy to incorporate into meals. Eating garlic can provide a variety of health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease and improved gut health.

8. Omega 3 fatty acids: These are anti-inflammatory and may help regulate immunity. Omega-packed foods include fish, nuts, and plant oils.

9. Probiotics and prebiotics: These are essential for gut health which is essential to immunity. More than 70% of our immune system is located in our gut. If you are buying a supplement, look for one with a broad spectrum of bacteria and at least 3-5 billion CFU (colony-forming units) such as Optibac or Biokult. Probiotic-rich foods include kombucha, yoghurt, and other fermented foods

10. Protein: Protein is part of the body’s defence mechanism and is a critical component of many hormones, enzymes, and antibodies involved in immunity. I would advise including a source at each of your main meals and to obtain your protein from a variety of different sources. Protein-packed sources include fish, beans, and nuts.

Fitness Tip: NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is a key area to focus on. It can account for anywhere from 15-50% of our total energy expenditure each day and includes all activity outside of planned exercise like parking further from the entrance or getting off the bus a stop earlier. I monitor this every day with my tracker. I aim for 10,000 steps a day which isn’t easy!

Wellness Tip: Take a look at your diet this week & consider whether you’re getting enough of the above nutrients. If not, try to make small changes for improvement; or look at picking up some supplements/vitamins.

Nutritious Chocolate Spread:

Healthy homemade chocolate spread
Healthy homemade chocolate spread

You don’t have to try to ignore your chocolate cravings anymore with this nutritious homemade chocolate spread recipe. I love to have this spread on toast, crackers, or stirred through some oats!

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves: Makes one jar.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 8 medjool dates (pitted)
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp raw cacao
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Method

Blend the nuts in a food processor for 5 mins, until almost completely broken down.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend for 15 mins, until completely smooth. You will need to stop from time to time to scrape the edges.

Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

Your child's immunity is best built with natural foods

Your child’s immunity is best built with natural foods

  • October 17, 2020

No amount of supplements and vitamins can replace good nutrition, with milk being a vital component of a child’s diet.

During this pandemic, it’s only natural for parents to be concerned about their child’s immunity.

A recent nationwide survey titled #ImmunityMatters, conducted by Mead Johnson Nutrition’s Enfagrow A+ Malaysia, revealed that 96% of parents have concerns about their child’s health in the light of Covid-19 and 94% believe that nutrition is vital in building immunity.

The survey, which involved more than 500 parents with children above the age of one, was carried out across Malaysia to gain a deeper insight into parental behaviour during the current pandemic.

Results showed that a high percentage of parents (82%) believe a child’s immune health can be nurtured and built over time, with 95% of parents being familiar with immunity-boosting foods.

Amongst these numbers, more than 42% made conscious decisions to change their family’s food choices, with family shopping lists shifting to show parental priority in choosing immunity-building foods and nutrients (84%) to build up the family’s natural defences.

The top five food choices parents rated to build a stronger immune system were: vegetables (88%), fruits (80%), meat (55%), milk (54%) and grains (43%).

According to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents 2013, children are encouraged to consume two to three servings of milk or dairy products a day.

In this study, 63% of parents gave their children milk at least three times a day.

“It is important to lay the building blocks for a good immune system in the first five years of a child’s life because this is the time of rapid physical and mental growth. You are what you eat.

“If you miss that timeframe, all is not lost as immunity can still be built over time.

“I strongly believe a child’s diet should follow the BMV (balance, moderation and variety) concept.

“Then they will have enough energy and their defences will be working optimally,” says clinical dietitian Rozanna Rosly.

During the movement control order (MCO), she found that children were not being adequately hydrated and sleeping later, which can make them more susceptible to illness.

Fewer sick days mean they can eat better, and are more vibrant and energetic.

She says: “A lot of parents send their kids to nannies and babysitters.

“They don’t know if the child is eating properly or if the meals are balanced.

“If your child doesn’t want to eat and you continue to give him junk or unhealthy foods, it doesn’t help his immune system.

“Like adults who have cheat days, junk or fast food is okay sometimes, but for the rest of the time, the meal has to be healthy.

“With this pandemic, we want the children to have good, natural defences.”

‘Milk-ing’ your immunity

Over 70% to 80% of immune cells are found in our gut.

A diet with the right nutrients can help modulate immune function, reduce the risk of infection and amplify the inflammatory response when attacked by bacteria or viruses.

Says Rozanna: “Clinical research has shown the positive effects of milk fat globule membrane (MFGM), which is a nutrient-rich component that is found in our brain.

“Consumption of milk fortified with MFGM has a protective effect against stomach infection and reduces the number of days with fever.

“Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is found in our brain and fatty fish such as salmon, also helps immunity and boosts brain development in children.

“They also need prebiotics and probiotics, which can be obtained from fruits and vegetables.

“These act as ‘fertilisers’ to balance the microorganisms that live in the digestive system.”

As for supplements and vitamins, she says children who are eating balanced meals do not need them.

“During this Covid-19 time, adults are buying vitamin C by the truckloads!

“Only children who don’t eat or don’t like drinking milk need supplements, but this has to be given according to age,” she says.

While there is no way to measure immunity, there are certain signs you can look out for.

“If your child falls sick every month, and now falls sick only every other month, then his immunity has improved.

“Usually, when a child falls ill, he won’t want to eat, and if it happens frequently, there is a disruption in growth.

“But he may ask for milk. In fact, even adults who are unwell like to drink milk.

“Milk is a nutrient-dense food, and the fortified ones are rich in calcium and have added vitamins and minerals to support linear growth and boost immunity,” she adds.

Google trends reveal global nutrition focus

Google trends reveal global nutrition focus

  • October 12, 2020

COVID-19 is directly impacting diets and behaviours, not least due to people’s heightened concern about ensuring they have a fighting fit immune system.

In order to assess exactly how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting dietary and lifestyle-related behaviours at the global level, a team of researchers from Taiwan used Google Trends – the most popular tool to gather information on web-based behaviours​ – to analyse how the pandemic is influencing people’s online searches.

The team gathered worldwide relative search volumes (RSVs) between 1 June 2019 and 27 April 2020, selecting search terms “coronavirus”, “Covid-19”, “Covid 19”, “Covid”, and “SARS-CoV2”, and multiple keywords in four categories: food security, dietary behaviours, immune-related nutrients/herbs, and outdoor/indoor lifestyles and behaviours. 

In their resulting report, published in the journal Nutrients​, they provide a global network correlations graph showing the link between daily conformed COVID-19 cases and diet-related lifestyle behaviour search terms.

The graph reveals a strong correlation between COVID-19 cases and searches for specific active ingredients including: Vitamin E, C, D, A, B, turmeric, zinc, ginger, selenium, curcumin, coffee, and garlic. It also reveals a link between COVID-19 cases and searches for the terms ‘weight loss’, ‘cycling’ , and ‘exercise’.

Perhaps surprisingly, a negative link is revealed between COVID-19 cases and ‘omega-3’.

The reported data also reveals a marked rise in searches involving the word ‘immunity’ plus vitamins, particularly vitamin C and to a lesser extent, herbs and turmeric.

Podcast: Eating for Immunity feat. Eagle Nutrition Services

Podcast: Eating for Immunity feat. Eagle Nutrition Services

  • October 9, 2020

Eileen Gaffney, a dietetics intern at Eagle Nutrition Services (ENS), shares tips on healthy eating and strengthening one’s immune system. ENS provides nutrition education and counseling services aimed at improving health, nutrition and longevity. It also serves an outlet for dietetic students to learn about professional, independent dietetic practices. Listen to the full episode above, or read her main takeaways below:

Healthy eating and COVID-19

There is no known food, vitamin, or nutrient that treats or prevents COVID-19. However, according to the CDC, certain vitamins and minerals can affect the immune system’s function in fighting infections, and reducing inflammation and swelling.

Strengthening your immune system

“’Boosting immunity’ is not exactly an accurate description of the immune system,“ Gaffney said. “One may be able to strengthen the immune system.”

You can do so by:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet. This includes 2-6 oz. of protein, 2-3 cups of dairy, 1.5-2 cups of fruit, and 2-3 cups of vegetables, and 3-8 oz. of whole grains each day.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Not smoking.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Washing hands, wearing a mask, and maintaining social distancing.

Key vitamins and minerals

The following vitamins and minerals can have an impact on immune system function. Gaffney also suggests different foods that are rich in each vitamin or mineral.

Zinc

  • What it does: Helps control inflammation in the body by slowing down this immune response to stress.
  • Where to find it: Crab, fortified cereals

Vitamin B6

  • What it does: Critical to general immune system function
  • Where to find it: Chicken, beans, hummus, bananas, baked potatoes

Vitamin C

  • What it does: Helps stimulate the formulation of antibodies
  • Where to find it: Citrus fruits like strawberry and kiwi, bell peppers,

Vitamin D

Supplements

“There is evidence suggesting [that] Vitamin C, in particular, can alleviate the severity and duration of the common cold, but it’s still always better to obtain your need through actual food,“ Gaffney said.

The recommended value for Vitamin C is about 90 mg a day for men and 75 mg a day for women. One can achieve the daily serving with an orange, a kiwi, or a serving of broccoli. Someone who is unable to eat certain foods due to an allergy or other medical condition may take a vitamin or supplement.

Vitamin D supplements can also be beneficial, as this Vitamin can be difficult to achieve through food alone. Gaffney says it is best purchased as Vitamin D3 at 1000-2000 international units (IU) per day.

Reliable sources of nutrition research

Eagle Nutrition Services is located at 160 Rackham Hall, and is open every Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. You can find a full list of their available services and pricing here.


Good nutrition can contribute to keeping COVID-19 and other diseases away

Good nutrition can contribute to keeping COVID-19 and other diseases away

  • October 6, 2020

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Hear the word “nutrition,” and often what comes to mind are fad diets, juice “cleanses” and supplements. Americans certainly seem concerned with their weight; 45 million of us spend US$33 billion annually on weight loss products. But one in five Americans consumes nearly no vegetables – less than one serving per day.

When the emphasis is on weight loss products, and not healthy day-to-day eating, the essential role that nutrition plays in keeping us well never gets communicated. Among the many things I teach students in my nutritional biochemistry course is the clear relationship between a balanced diet and a strong, well-regulated immune system.

Along with social distancing measures and effective vaccines, a healthy immune system is our best defense against coronavirus infection. To keep it that way, proper nutrition is an absolute must. Although not a replacement for medicine, good nutrition can work synergistically with medicine to improve vaccine effectiveness, reduce the prevalence of chronic disease and lower the burden on the health care system.

Cholesterol, saturated fat, and sugar are a big part of the Western diet.
The Western diet is packed with cholesterol, saturated fat and sugar.
Tara Moore via Getty Images

The impact of the Western diet

Scientists know that people with preexisting health conditions are at greater risk for severe COVID-19 infections. That includes those with diabetes, obesity, and kidney, lung or cardiovascular disease. Many of these conditions are linked to a dysfunctional immune system.

Patients with cardiovascular or metabolic disease have a delayed immune response, giving viral invaders a head start. When that happens, the body reacts with a more intense inflammatory response, and healthy tissues are damaged along with the virus. It’s not yet clear how much this damage factors into the increased mortality rate, but it is a factor.

What does this have to do with nutrition? The Western diet typically has a high proportion of red meat, saturated fat and what’s known as “bliss point foods” rich in sugar and salt. Adequate fruit and vegetable consumption is missing. Despite the abundance of calories that often accompanies the Western diet, many Americans don’t consume nearly enough of the essential nutrients our bodies need to function properly, including vitamins A, C and D, and the minerals iron and potassium. And that, at least in part, causes a dysfunctional immune system: too few vitamins and minerals, and too many empty calories.

A healthy immune system responds quickly to limit or prevent infection, but it also promptly “turns down the dial” to avoid damaging the cells of the body. Sugar disrupts this balance. A high proportion of refined sugar in the diet can cause chronic, low-grade inflammation in addition to diabetes and obesity. Essentially, that “dial” is never turned all the way off.

While inflammation is a natural part of the immune response, it can be harmful when it’s constantly active. Indeed, obesity is itself characterized by chronic, low-grade inflammation and a dysregulated immune response.

And research shows
that vaccines may be less effective in obese people. The same applies to those who regularly drink too much alcohol.

Healthy dietary habits start with nutrition education.
Nutrition education is critical to developing healthy dietary habits.
westend61 via Getty Images

How nutrients help

Nutrients, essential substances that help us grow properly and remain healthy, help maintain the immune system. In contrast to the delayed responses associated with malnutrition, vitamin A fights against multiple infectious diseases, including measles. Along with vitamin D, it regulates the immune system and helps to prevent its overactivation. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, protects us from the injury caused by free radicals.

Polyphenols, a wide-ranging group of molecules found in all plants, also have anti-inflammatory properties. There’s plenty of evidence to show a diet rich in plant polyphenols can lower the risk of chronic conditions, like hypertension, insulin insensitivity and cardiovascular disease.

Why don’t we Americans eat more of these plant-based foods and fewer of the bliss-based foods? It’s complicated. People are swayed by advertising and influenced by hectic schedules. One starting place would be to teach people how to eat better from an early age. Nutrition education should be emphasized, from kindergarten through high school to medical schools.

Millions of Americans live in food deserts, having limited access to healthy foods. In these circumstances, education must be paired with increased access. These long-term goals could bring profound returns with a relatively small investment.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

Meantime, all of us can take small steps to incrementally improve our own dietary habits. I’m not suggesting we stop eating cake, french fries and soda completely. But we as a society have yet to realize the food that actually makes us feel good and healthy is not comfort food.

The COVID-19 pandemic won’t be the last we face, so it’s vital that we use every preventive tool we as a society have. Think of good nutrition as a seat belt for your health; it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but it helps to ensure the best outcomes.

RAFI Promotes Nutrition and Boosting the Immune System in RESTART Webinar Series Episode 8

RAFI Promotes Nutrition and Boosting the Immune System in RESTART Webinar Series Episode 8

  • October 5, 2020

As we continue to battle COVID-19, our immune system play a vital role serving as the primary defense against viruses and all kinds of illness. The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) remains steadfast in its mission of promoting improved levels of physical well-being through proper nutrition and boosting the immune system, especially against COVID-19.

Individuals and organizations who wish to participate in the webinar can register at the link posted on RAFI’s Facebook page.

The benefits of good nutrition go beyond weight. Having proper nutrition ensures that our immune system receives the right amount of vitamins and minerals, directs an impact to health and quality of life. While there is no medicine that swiftly improves our system, having a healthy lifestyle is considered the best defense.

RESTART Webinar Series Episode 8 with registered nutritionist-dietician Mark Ong | Contributed Photo

On its eighth episode of the RESTART Webinar Series, registered nutritionist-dietician Mark Ong will discuss on the various steps to take to further support the immune system, and learn how to keep them in shape amidst the pandemic.

The webinar is part of the activities organized by the RAFI Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center (EJACC) in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Noting that a healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce the risk of cancer, RAFI EJACC will be giving a raffle prize of a free breast cancer screening to one lucky viewer who registers for the webinar, as part of its campaign on early detection.

This episode can be streamed on October 8, 2PM at the RAFI Facebook page and Youtube, and CDN Digital Facebook page.

READ MORE: Keeping your immunity strong amid a pandemic

 

Individuals and organizations who wish to participate in the webinar can register at the link posted on RAFI’s Facebook page.

ADVERTORIAL

Adjoa Courtney, known as Chef Joya, will release a second cookbook this fall, so be sure to follow her on Instagram for news and updates.

Healthy fall recipes, nutrition from Charlotte NC experts

  • October 2, 2020

Adjoa Courtney, known as Chef Joya, will release a second cookbook this fall, so be sure to follow her on Instagram for news and updates.

Adjoa Courtney, known as Chef Joya, will release a second cookbook this fall, so be sure to follow her on Instagram for news and updates.

At a time when most things in Charlotte are unpredictable due to COVID-19 and Phase 3 of North Carolina’s safer-at-home order, one aspect of life we can all find comfort in is food. It’s officially fall, which means it’s perfectly acceptable to get comfortable and cozy up next to healthy fall recipes that could contribute to your overall happiness and wellness.

The start of fall can kick off with these healthy fall dishes that are not only tasteful but will help support your immune system during the upcoming colder months. From curry sweet potato bisque to roasted vegetables and sausage medley and a homemade bone broth, Charlotte food and nutrition experts have you covered.

Personal chef Adjoa Courtney, also known as Chef Joya, looks forward to colder weather because she loves to prepare a variety of soups and stews. Her curry sweet potato bisque is a favorite recipe. It’s packed with immune supporting ingredients like sweet potato, ginger, garlic, turmeric and red bell pepper.

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Chef Joya said her Curry Sweet Potato Bisque is the epitome of an immune boosting meal. Courtesy of Chef Joya

“Comfort food is always a great thing,” she said. “I cook from a place of comfort. I cook from a place of love. When you can cook and still have those flavors and it can still be super healthy and good for you, it’s very important.”

Many of Chef Joya’s plant-based recipes are inspired by family and her childhood.

If you’re in the mood for a healthy fall meal on-the-go, Matt Dengler, a registered and licensed dietitian, suggested adding pumpkin or sweet potato to shakes or smoothies. The orange color indicates beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps support the immune system.

“Adding canned pumpkin is a really great way to add fiber to a smoothie with vanilla protein powder, a banana and almond milk,” he said. “It would be a great fall dish that’s high in protein and fruits and veggies.”

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Matt Dengler, who owns a private practice, RxRD Nutrition LLC, assists clients with body composition improvement through science-based nutrition information. Matt Dengler

Dengler, who owns RxRD Nutrition LLC, suggested pizza as a good way to sneak in healthy vegetables and proteins. He and his wife frequent Charlotte restaurants such as Farley’s for the garden pizza or Bisonte Pizza for the veggie lovers pizza. When they’re home, they create their own pies and load them with spinach, peppers, onions, mushrooms and some protein on top.

“Life is way too short not to enjoy some fun foods,” he said. “If you’re going to do it yourself, you can make it a little bit more healthier than buying it from the store.”

Dylan Lowry, a registered and licensed dietitian with Nutrition Healthworks, said fall is the time to start incorporating in-season vegetables to help support the immune system. Eating about three cups of vegetables and two fruits a day should be the goal. During the colder months, he usually eats fruit with each meal.

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Dylan Lowry is a registered and licensed dietitian with Nutrition Healthworks, which serves the Charlotte community with locations throughout the city. Travis Chilcot

“Variety is also a big factor,” Lowry said. “If you’re eating three bananas a day every day, that’s not going to give you a variety of nutrition, vitamins and minerals to help the immune system.”

Salads are a good way to get an immune boost and incorporate different fruits and vegetables. If you’re at home, you can add greens, strawberries for vitamin C, cheese for vitamin D and calcium, bell peppers and a lean protein. If you want to order in, try the harvest bowl from Chopt.

Samantha Eaton, a certified nutritional health coach and eating psychology coach, loves the “soup/stew Sunday” tradition that comes with this time of year. She and her husband look forward to cooking soup or stew on Sundays. One of her favorites is a roasted vegetables and sausage medley.

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Samantha Eaton suggests when deciding what to eat to ask yourself, “What can I add to this that will give it an immune boost and make it more nutritious for me?” Lauren Selby

“It’s really easy to make,” she said. “It’s loaded with all of those traditional, delicious fall flavors that you think of when you think of fall.”

Eaton’s homemade bone broth is an added immune supporting bonus to any soup.

“I love making my own bone broth,” she said. “It’s super easy to do. It has all kinds of amazing health benefits in it. It has amino acids, and those help reduce inflammation, arthritis, joint pain and have natural collagen.”

Chef Michael Bowling likes variety in life and in the food he serves. Healthy eating is all about vegetables and having variety in what you eat to make sure your body gets all the nutrients it can get, said the owner of The Hot Box Next Level Kitchen.

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Chef Michael Bowling is the owner of Hot Box Next Level Kitchen inside Southern Strain Brewing and co-founder of Soul Food Sessions. Peter Taylor

The hot box grain bowl has gained popularity with its mix of healthy ingredients, like grains, cucumbers, tomatoes and mushrooms. During the colder months, Bowling incorporates more variety in recipes.

“We use a lot more broccoli and cauliflower as we get more into the fall,” he said. “We use a lot of red bell peppers, roasted and raw. Raw, red bell peppers have twice the amount of citrus as an orange. They also boost your metabolism when you eat them raw.”

When he’s not in the kitchen, Bowling likes to enjoy one of the many juices Viva Raw offers. The citrus twist supports the immune system by incorporating orange, apple, carrot, cucumber and ginger.

Healthy fall recipes you can make at home from Charlotte-based publications and blogs

Where: Bucket List Tummy

What to make: Tropical Banana Chia Pudding

Benefits: Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 and copper, which work as an antioxidant. Chia seeds contain calcium.

Where: Peanut Blossom

What to make: Homemade Dried Apple Chips

Benefits: Cinnamon has antioxidants. Apples have fiber and vitamin C.

Where: Unpretentious Palate

What to make: Mushroom barley soup

Benefits: Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants. Barley is rich in calcium and iron.

Where: Shuangy’s Kitchen Sink

What to make: Thai Pumpkin Curry

Benefits: Pumpkin has vitamin C and is rich in fiber.

Healthy fall favorites you can order from Charlotte restaurants

Where: Birch Fine Tea

What to order: Apple Ginger Rooibos

Benefits: Ginger, a natural remedy, has healing qualities. Apple and rooibos offer anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.

Where: Clean Catch Fish Market Myers Park

What to order: Faroe Island Atlantic Salmon

Benefits: Salmon is rich in Vitamin A.

Where: Leah and Louise

What to order: Mama Earth

Benefits: Tomatoes have Vitamin C. Okra is full of antioxidants.

Where: Nourish Vegan Meals

What to order: Cathy’s Thai Chili

Benefits: Black beans offer calcium, fiber and zinc. Sweet potatoes can help support your intake of vitamin A.

Where: Passage to India

What to order: Dal Fry

Benefits: Lentils have zinc, which can help heal wounds. Onions have Vitamin C.

Where: Pho @ Noda

What to order: F2 Gà Xào Xả Ớt

Benefits: Lemongrass promotes antiviral activity.


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