As many of us stay home to flatten the curve of coronavirus, much is not within our control: coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths, widespread job losses and bankruptcies, government responses or inadequacies. But what is within more of our control is keeping ourselves and our loved ones at home healthy, and hopefully out of the hospital. A big part of that is getting enough sleep and exercise (see Coronavirus: Tips for Staying Healthy and Sane), and another critical piece is healthy eating, which we'll focus on in this post.
Here are some foods and food groups to try to include as part of boosting your immune system and reducing inflammation, useful not only in staying well at home during the coronavirus epidemic, but also when traveling, when that is again safe to do. We've also included some good ways to include them in your dishes.
1. Kale and Leafy Greens
Kale is made fun of as a food fad for yuppie liberals, and I smile each time I see someone wearing that navy blue sweatshirt with “Kale” written in the same font as Yale University's logo. But there's no denying kale's great nutritional value: one cup of it gives you 200% of the RDA of Vitamin C, 180% of Vitamin A, 5 grams of fiber, and over 40 antioxidant flavonoids. But an especially important benefit is that it's packed with Vitamin K, which is associated with reduced inflammation, and improved cardiovascular health and bone health.
Use fresh kale in a main dish salad or grain bowl, or incorporate defrosted frozen kale into a pasta sauce, lasagna or omelet.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid and antioxidant that is linked to better cardiovascular health as well as lower inflammation and improved immune function. Since lycopene is fat soluble, it's ideal paired with food with healthy fat, such as a marinara sauce with olive oil, or with salmon or avocado.
Try a main dish salad with leafy greens, smoked salmon, avocado and tomatoes, with an olive oil-based dressing and perhaps some crumbled goat cheese on top. Or enjoy your favorite tomato-based sauce with pasta.
Blueberries are also a great source of antioxidants, the anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Since anthocyanins' health properties can easily be destroyed with heat, a better way to preserve the health benefits is to eat your blueberries raw, whether plain, sprinkled on cereal, or blended into a smoothie, rather than in the form of blueberry pancakes or pie.
Garlic is another anti-inflammatory; it contains diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound that reduces the effects of inflammatory-inducing cytokines. Its anti-inflammatory properties are actually increased by heating, which is just as well, since not many of us care for raw garlic, while the cooked version can add wonderful flavor to salad dressings, pasta sauces, or even (after baking until the cloves are soft) as a topping for bread.
Ginger is well known for helping with nausea and aiding digestion, but it's also helpful in fighting rhinoviruses through its sesquiterpene, and has anti-inflammatory properties. A cup of ginger tea, rather than an alcoholic nightcap, is an excellent way to wind down for the evening.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, linked to lower levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. A 3.5 oz. serving includes over a quarter of the RDA for Vitamin K (reduces inflammation), 20% of the RDA for Folate, and 10-17% RDA for Vitamin C (improves iron absorption, key for muscle and collagen formation and healing), Potassium, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E.
What are some of the healthy foods you're trying to eat more of during the coronavirus epidemic?
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