BodyConscious Doctor Recommends Healthy Food Choices During Quarantine
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients in Thailand and other countries keeps increasing, governments, including the Thai government, have announced a state of emergency and advised or ordered people to self-quarantine in the hope to stop the virus from spreading. A lot of people, including Thais, panic buy and stock up food from stores, especially canned salty food, processed frozen food and instant noodles leaving many stores with empty shelves. Even though this food can be kept for a long time, it might not be good for your health in the long run. Dr. Pattcharanun Sripattanawat, BodyConscious’s Functional Medicine Doctor, said that even though people have to limit their shopping trips, with a good shopping list, it is possible to eat healthfully. Dr. Pattcharanun recommends the types of food that we should eat and should avoid during quarantine to boost our immunity and to keep our bodies healthy.
It is widely known that Vitamin C can help boost our immunity as it supports the production of white blood cells, which are the army to fight against viruses. Even though Vitamin C seems to be essential for us, our body cannot produce or store Vitamin C. This is the reason why we have to consume Vitamin C for continued health. Orange, lemon, limes and other citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C and the fruit can be stored for a period of time. Apart from citrus fruits, there are also other types of fruit that are rich in Vitamin C, including papaya, guava, kiwi, blueberry, strawberry, gooseberry, mango, pineapple and Indian gooseberry.
We can also find Vitamin C in many vegetables. Surprisingly, red and yellow bell peppers contain twice as much Vitamin C as citrus fruit. Moreover, it provides a great source of Beta Carotene, which is essential for keeping our eyes and skin healthy. Other types of vegetables that are rich in Vitamin C include cauliflower, broccoli, kale, spinach, chayote leaves, sugar pea and cha-om. However, for spinach, it is recommended to limit the amount of intake because excess amount could cause kidney stones. Apart from high Vitamin C vegetables, there are also other vegetables that can help boost your immunity, such as garlic, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, bergamot and chilli, which can be found in a lot of Thai signature dishes, such as Tom Yum and Tom Saab.
Another way to strengthen your immune system is to maintain a healthy gut. Research has found that 70 percent of the cells in the gut wall make up the immune system. For optimal immunity as well as detoxification, our gut must function seamlessly. In order to maintain a healthy gut, it is recommended to consider food with probiotics, which are good and helpful live bacteria. Food that contains probiotics include plain yogurt (avoid yogurts with added sugar), Kombucha, Natto, Miso, Kim Chi and tempeh. Apart from probiotics, prebiotics can also promote a healthy gut by serving as food for friendly bacteria. We can get prebiotics from mushrooms, such as Shitake, Maitake and Reishi, banana, garlic, onion, berries, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, asparagus, flaxseeds and oatmeal. Apart from boosting the immunity, a healthy gut can also help to support weight loss.
If you are a snack lover who enjoys sweet and creamy chocolate bars or salty potato chips, you might consider switching them for healthy snacks during this time. Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and cashew nuts are high in Vitamin E which is essential for the immune system much like Vit C. Unlike Vitamin C however. Vitamin E requires the presence of fats to to be absorbed effectively. These nuts and seeds also contain healthy fats, which means that Vitamin E can be absorbed properly. We can sprinkle these nuts and seeds on our salads, put them in yogurt, put them in papaya salad or simply enjoy a handful as a snack. Another interesting and super healthy snack is Goji Berry, high in antioxidants that help your body to fight against free radicals as they contain a great amount of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. In addition, fruit is vital for promoting healthy skin, stabilizing blood sugar, preventing cancer and improving gut health. We can enjoy them as snacks, put them in yogurt, or we can even put them in soup. Dark chocolate can also strengthen our immunity as dark chocolate contains phenolic compounds and Zinc. However, it is recommended to go for the darkest possible version with less or absence of sugar.
Apart from getting healthy fats from nuts and seeds, it is also recommended to consume healthy fats from oil, such as olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil as they can help our bodies to digest certain nutrients and help the body to work smoothly. Moreover, sardine and mackerel are also necessary for our immune system as they contain selenium and Vitamin D. In addition, as fish are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, they can also help to reduce inflammation. Even though It is always best to consume fresh fish, frozen fish available in supermarkets can also be consumed when it is hard to find fresh ones.
Another interesting and effective way to boost your immune system and maintain healthy weight is to switch to complex carbs. To illustrate, unlike simple carbs, complex carbs don’t generate high sugar levels which are bad for the immune system. Moreover, complex carbs are good for health in several ways, including reducing cortisol level, removing toxins from the gut and acting as prebiotics to nourish friendly bacteria, which all lead to a better immune system. Complex carbs can be found in whole barley, oatmeal, buckwheat, brown rice, soy bean, spinach, lettuce, water cress, kale, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, cucumber, eggplants, celery, tomatoes, apples, kiwi, strawberry, orange, grapes and banana.
However, to make sure that we have sufficient nutrients to support our immune systems, we might consider taking supplements. The recommended supplements that can effectively boost your immune system include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, fish oil, Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin B complex, probiotics and selenium. These supplements not only support our immune systems, but they are also good for our overall wellbeing.
Apart from the above types of food which are good to consume during quarantine, there are some types of food that we should avoid, including sugar, unhealthy fat and high calorie food and salty products. For sugar, we should limit the sugar intake, especially refined sugar. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, simple sugar found in candy and soda can hamper the ability of white blood cells to fight against invading bacteria and viruses by as much as 50 percent. It is also recommended to avoid or limit saturated fat and high calorie food intake, many studies found that these types of food act like harmful bacteria to our bodies which make our immune systems become more aggressive, alarmed and over active. This can increase the risks for arteriosclerosis, thickening arteries and diabetes. Moreover, consumption of high saturated fat can also decrease the friendly bacteria in our guts, which leads to poor immunity.
Apart from food, sufficient sleep, drinking enough water, sunlight exposure and exercise at home can also help us maintain optimal immunity. Most importantly as suggested by doctors and governments around the world, it is very important to practice social distancing, avoid sharing food with family members or friends and wash your hands with soap or hand gel sanitizer regularly to avoid the virus.
Where to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables
Uraiwan Farm (Chiangmai)
Where to purchase organic nuts, grains and seeds.
Bean Bag Snacks
Press Release, April 2020, Bangkok