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No matter how much kale you eat or green smoothies you drink, if you encounter coronavirus, you are going to get it. However, rather than throw your hands up in the air in despair (grabbling a wine glass on the way) hard as it is, why not use some of this time in isolation to try out some really worthwhile and budget friendly nutrition habits?
Stress makes people want to eat more. People all over the world are sick, suffering, losing their livelihood, separated from loved ones and fearful of the future. It’s no surprise that:
"After a lot of deliberation, I’ve made the incredibly tough decision to postpone my summer body”
- has been shared endless times.
Start with compassion
When it comes to adopting healthier habits, start with compassion. Consider how you might give that to yourself now, in the life situation you find yourself in and in your current body. Having to stock up on enough food several weeks at a time can be tough for those with a history of disordered eating so you may need to dig deep. Your long term relationship to yourself matters much more than if you gain a few pounds these weeks.
As a population, we tend to eat too much of a single grain - wheat - and we would all benefit from diversifying to include others such as oats, barley, quinoa, buckwheat and millet. A varied diet is also the best way to achieve good gut health, as each type of bacteria prefers different plant chemicals. In my experience, those “ancient grain” products are still available on otherwise rather sparse supermarket shelves too, so there’s no excuse.
Diversify breakfast most of all. Most people reach for high-carb, sugary cereals, but why not focus is on nutrients instead? You could try having vegetables at breakfast, best combined with a protein such as in a spinach omelette. Fruits are healthy but if you start eating several portions in one go it will trigger a big insulin response due to the natural sugars fruit contains.
DIY superfoods: fermenting and sprouting
Fermenting is a lost tradition that is really good for your gut flora. It is also incredibly cheap to do at home. You can make sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and and kombucha. Fermented foods contain bacteria that boost our microbiome and fibre and prebiotics that support our digestive health. The fermentation process makes nutrients easier for the body to absorb.
You could also sprout seeds, so called nutrient powerhouses. Alfalfa, lentils and mung beans add flavour and interest to salads. Google “how to ferment” or “how to sprout” and a whole new world will reveal itself.
Fat isn’t bad for us, it’s beneficial. It helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and is satiating, so we feel satisfied after we’ve eaten. That means we can regulate how much we eat and realise when we are full.
So, adopt a diet that includes more healthy fatty foods - avocados, olive oil, fatty fish and raw nuts for their essential fatty acids and omega 3s. People often don’t get enough omega 3s, but they are vital for brain and heart health. They protect cells, limit free radical damage and, crucially, reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a causative factor in diseases such as dementia, cancer and heart disease. So, if you reduce your level of inflammation, you can reduce your risk.
For a long time, my focus was entirely on nutrition, but now I recognise we all must pay attention to movement, sleep and managing stress levels. I have finally started to use the app on my phone that motivates me to get 10,000 + steps every day - the bonus news is that my labrador Annie (who was becoming a bit of a flabrador) is now back to her youthful, svelte self.
If you can add at least 15 minutes of something else - a dose of Joe Wicks or a Pilates routine - all the better, but start with that 10,000 and work up from that.