Welcome to day 5 of ‘7 Questions for 7 Experts’, Goumbook’s guide to navigating your way through the challenges of life in lock-down, dedicated to bringing positive and supportive information during these difficult times.
Welcome to our 5th day of ‘7 Questions for 7 Experts’, Goumbook’s guide to navigating your way through the challenges of life in lock-down, dedicated to bringing positive and supportive information during these difficult times.
As we settle into this new rhythm of remote work and isolation, we ask one expert every day to help us address specific questions we might need help with.
The world has plunged into uncertainty due to the Coronavirus and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. Self-isolation as well as working from home whilst attempting the precarious daily challenge of home-schooling kids can take its toll on our mental and emotional well-being.
Being a great lover of food and eating well, I thought it would be essential to include an article on nutrition in this series; what to eat to stay healthy, how to boost your immunity through your diet and should we be taking supplements… just some of the questions we ask Tania Farha, a certified Integrative Nutrition Coach, a dear friend and a strong point of reference in my life especially when discussing well-being and nutrition.
I am certainly more mindful of what I am eating these days as well as being more creative in the kitchen with the food we have, (we can’t just nip out to the supermarket) and of course making sure not to waste any food. It’s a stressful time right now for everyone and the best thing we can do to support our immune systems is to listen to our bodies (and the experts).
As always, we welcome your feedback, connect with us and others by sharing your stories.
Eco regards, be safe and eat healthy!
1/ Now more than ever, people are thinking about their health and daily nutrition, what are just some of the immune-boosting foods we should be including in our daily diet?
A balanced whole-food diet is key to keeping your immune system strong. By whole-food I mean consuming foods in their natural state, avoiding anything processed, packaged, refined. For an additional boost:
- Vitamin C foods help build up your immune system: Citrus fruits, berries, red bell peppers.
- Zinc foods are very important for a strong immune system: Shellfish; legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans; nuts & seeds.
- Foods that contain probiotics and keep your gut strong: Kefir, Greek yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi.
- Herbs and spices with medicinal qualities: Turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory and my favorite ‘medicinal’ spice to use in the kitchen. I use it in stews, cakes, soups and rice. I also add it to scrambled egg, with a pinch of pepper to increase absorption. I also boil it and drink it as a tea with ginger and lemon. Cayenne pepper, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, oregano, and cumin all offer impressive health benefits and may help reduce inflammation.
2/ How important is hydration to boost immunity and general wellbeing? Any tips you can share to make sure you stay hydrated?
Dehydration puts your whole body under stress; it affects your blood pressure, your energy levels and mood, is a main cause of constipation, and can offset Urinary tract infections, especially in women.
We need to drink between 2-3 liters of water a day. Lean towards the upper end if you are very active or when the weather heats up. I personally aim for 2.5L a day as I’m quite tall and it really helps keep my body cleansed and happy.
Get in the habit of starting the day with 500ml of water before you have even gotten out of bed, room temperature or warm is best, with half a lemon squeezed into it is even better. Leave it at your bed side in the evening so you don’t forget in the morning. Break down your water intake into 500ml portions, which is equivalent to a small bottle. Have 2 by lunch and an additional 3 by evening. Don’t drink too close to bed as it will keep you up at night with toilet runs! I find that portioning it off makes it much more do-able and easy to remember.
Alternatives that count towards your daily intake:
– Coconut water is full of electrolytes and low in calories, a favorite of mine.
– You can infuse your water with fresh mint leaves, cucumber, berries, citrus fruits to name a few.
– Herbal teas (no caffeine), u can drink them iced if you prefer. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Iced Rooibos tea with sliced fresh Ginger and lemon
- Iced Peppermint tea with fresh blackberries.
Caffeinated Tea, coffee & sodas don’t count.
3/ Many believe the gut is the epicentre of the body, most of our immune cells live there and therefore imperative to keep healthy for all sorts of reasons, what are some gut healthy foods we should be eating and why?
For many years now, gut microbiome has been the focal point of research worldwide, and findings on our ‘second brain’ continue to develop and surprise researchers who are linking it to many chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, allergies and even mood disorders.
85% of your immunity lies in your gut so it’s important that you focus on keeping it strong. Your diet, the use of antibiotics, and age can change gut microbiome.
A strong gut microbiome is built over time and requires consistency with lifestyle and diet:
- A diversity of fruits and vegetables in the diet is very important for building a strong diverse microbiome. Aim for 15-20 different varieties of fruits/vegetables and herbs a week. They all contain pre-biotics which act as ‘fertilizer’ for the good bacteria in your gut.
- In addition, adding fermented foods to your diet will boost your immunity, improve digestion and act as a probiotic.
Fermented foods include Kefir milk, sauerkraut, kimchi.
I would recommend starting with 1 portion a day as these foods contain high levels of probiotics and can cause gas and bloating, in particular sauerkraut and kimchi that are also high in fiber. I recommend starting with 150ml of kefir milk, or 25g of sauerkraut or kimchi a day.
I personally like Kefir milk and use it daily to make a smoothie in the morning. I blend it with a different fruit every day to add variety to my diet.
If you have a condition that affects your gut, you should check with your doctor before consuming fermented foods.
4/ Would you advise supplementing your food with daily vitamins and minerals? If so which ones and why? (bearing in mind we may be spending more time indoors right now due to the lockdown).
In theory, a good diet will provide a good amount of what we need. However, the reality of how our food is produced these days, and the storage and transportation of fresh produce before it reaches us is such that vitamins and minerals are depleted before we have even consumed the foods. I personally supplement with a few basics daily: A good multi vitamin that gives me a little bit of everything, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Omega 3. Due to the spread of Covid 19, I have recently added a Zinc supplement to boost my immunity.
Most people are deficient in Vitamin D and don’t even know it. Please check with your doctor before taking this Vitamin and decide on the relevant dose according to your blood levels. Levels in the blood should be between 30-100ng/ml, however a good place to be is around 50-60ng/ml.
If you are not consuming fermented foods daily, I would also recommend a good probiotic.
I am not a fan of experimenting with unconventional supplements and ‘herbs’; many of them don’t have daily recommended values because of lack of research and may do more harm than good. Supplements can also interfere with medication, you must always check with your doctor before taking them… and always go for well-known brands, especially when it comes to fish oils and omega supplements.
5/ Many are stocking up on more provisions right now, what are some cupboard staples you can suggest?
- Grains and pulses are always great to have on hand. I personally always keep lentils, chickpeas, white Lima beans and a variety of rice in my cupboard (brown rice, red rice and wild rice). These can be used in so many different ways and are very nutritious. I can’t live without oats, I add them to smoothies, have them as porridge in the morning and even drop them into soups.
- Nuts and seeds (including chia seeds), dry fruits, and nut butters for snacking. I use them for snacking and also add them to my smoothies or for making energy bars.
- Frozen veggies and berries (including acai) are great at this time when our supermarket trips are infrequent. I buy Frozen berries for my smoothies and acai bowls.
I also always have frozen beans, spinach, mixed vegetables and peas for making anything from stews, to soups, to vegetable rice dishes.
Are frozen vegetables as good as fresh?
Yes, and sometimes even better! In theory, fresh vegetables are better for you. However, as I mentioned earlier, more often than not, vegetables have been flown or transported and stored for days before they reach our supermarket shelves. Once harvested, vegetables start to lose nutrients and antioxidants. The longer they take to reach you, the more depleted they are of vitamins. Buy and support local when you can.
Frozen vegetables may contain more nutrients as they are usually frozen as soon as harvested and therefore maintain their vitamin levels.
What about tinned food, is this healthy?
No definitely not! Canned foods usually contain preservatives and chemicals to preserve the food and stop corrosion. As a result, many of them contain a byproduct called BPA which is linked to cancer and other diseases. I would recommend sticking to fresh and frozen.
6/ What are some ways to stay positive right now for the whole family, are there any websites or podcasts you would suggest, and how can food affect our mood? Can you suggest any mood boosting foods?
I think that having a routine is absolutely crucial at this time. It will help give your day structure which is key to maintaining mental wellbeing.
As a family, we have structured our day to include 4 things:
- Physical activity: Online classes are available everywhere from Instagram to online platforms.
- Learning something new: Enroll in an online course on coursera or udemy. Lots of other resources online.
- Reading: Join a virtual book club or create a book club with your friends.
- Leisure time: movie nights, board games, playing cards, cooking …
- Connecting with friends and family: We schedule zoom meetups with friends regularly and call family members daily. The support and community spirit have been tremendous, especially for friends & family members who live alone.
We also make sure to wake up and sleep at relatively the same time every day. We make sure to get out of our PJ’s fairly early and start with our daily routine. It has really helped us to have full and busy days.
Food can absolutely affect our mood and energy levels, in particular sugars and a carb-heavy diet.
Keeping your blood sugar balanced is key to keeping your mood stable. This means including and balancing proteins, carbs and healthy fats at every meal.
I would recommend sticking to a structure of 3 balanced meals a day and perhaps a snack in the afternoon. Pre-plan your meals and snacks to avoid munching.
- Foods high in healthy fats are great for boosting mood; these include nuts and seeds, avocado and fatty fish like salmon.
- Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that create feelings of pleasure, boosting your mood.
- Berries are loaded with anthocyanidins, known to boost brain function and antioxidants, which promote brain and nervous system health.
7/ What is the one thing you do each day that makes your life more sustainable?
I think it’s important to be a savvy consumer and be curious about where our food comes from.
What we put on our plate has a big impact on the environment. For example, the raising of livestock has a huge impact on our planet and being mindful of that can inform our decision making. I am not suggesting that we stop consuming meat, however we can develop healthy sustainable eating practices that benefit our planet. For us at home this translates to buying local and fresh produce and having 2 to 3 vegetarian days a week.
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Tania Farha is an IIN AADP certified Integrative Nutrition Coach and a certified expert in Digestive Gut Health, Emotional Eating and Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell; and she is the founder of the Glow People women wellness platform.
A serial entrepreneur and mother of 3, she is a strong advocate of using food as medicine to restore physical and mental well-being. In addition to working with individuals, her work involved consulting with F&B brands to provide nutritional analysis and advice on existing menus and food products, ensuring they meet optimal standards.
Tania also provides workshops in schools, with the aim of encouraging children at a young age to make better lifestyle choices. Her work has consistently shown her how self-care influences every aspect of our lives.
She also witnessed how powerful targeted consultations can be and founded Weltou to give people a safe space to gain the mental & physical well-being they need to reach their goals in life.
Disclaimer: the information shared on this website is for your general knowledge only. The website cannot, and is not intended, to replace the relationship you have with your health care professionals.