With the likelihood of a prolonged period of social distancing and home working, our normal everyday routine will become very disrupted. Whether you’ve got a little more time on your hands because you’re not travelling to work, or you’re having to work much longer hours because you’re a key worker, it’s most important to keep as fit and healthy as possible during these challenging times.
Finding new ways to keep fit or new dishes to try will help to boost your morale and wellbeing.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top tips for lasting wellness.
Load up on fruits and veggies
It seems like the shelves have been stripped bare of dried goods, such as pasta and rice, but fruits and vegetables are hopefully still available, certainly in lots of areas. Also, don’t forget the corner shops and local farmer’s shops which still seem to be well-stocked.
Protecting the immune system is the most important thing you can do right now and there’s a variety of ways you can really help yourself and your family. Fruit and vegetables are some of the richest sources of immune-boosting vitamin C, a great anti-viral agent. Whilst it’s not going to cure the virus, having strong immunity will put you in better to shape to fight it if you are unlucky enough to succumb.
If you’re used to having pasta-based meals, then why not try more vegetable-based ones? Sweet potato curry (loaded with immune-boosting beta-carotene), roasted veggies with chicken, fish or tofu, cauliflower curry, fajitas with avocado and red peppers - it’s just about getting more creative with your choice of dishes.
If you’re one of the 72% of the population currently not eating the minimum five-a-day of fruits and vegetables, then use this time to eat as many as you can daily. Frozen are just as good as fresh as they’ve generally been frozen quickly after harvest. Make your meals as colourful as possible!
Take a vitamin D supplement
We are all advised by Public Health England to take a vitamin D supplement through the winter months. Never has there been a more important time to be taking a vitamin D supplement; vitamin D is essential for the immune system. And even though some sunshine has appeared, it can never produce enough vitamin D on the skin to be fully effective.
Better still, take a daily multivitamin which includes a minimum of 10 micrograms (ug) of vitamin D: a multivitamin will also help plug any other nutrient deficiencies and further protect the immune system. You can also get some vitamin D from foods; eggs, mushrooms and fish are good sources, plus certain fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.
Sleep and rest well
In these times of heightened anxiety, stress can have a detrimental effect on the immune system. It’s therefore really important to make sure you’re getting sufficient rest and seven or eight hours sleep per night. Lack of sleep suppresses T cells in the immune system, which are needed to fight viruses and infections.
Equally, trying to take some relaxation during the day, can help you to sleep better at night. Try using a calming app, practising meditation, reading a book - whatever you find helpful. Also try to keep to regular bedtimes.
If you’re used to being a social butterfly, clearly everyone’s wings have been clipped for a while. Use the time to cut down on caffeine and alcohol as both will stop the body from sleeping peacefully. If you’re in the situation of being indoors much more, then take the opportunity to re-think your life and try to ditch those foods or activities that are not promoting good health.
Warm yourself from the inside
It’s crucially important to keep the body hydrated to protect vital organs and make your internal environment more difficult for viruses to enter.
Additionally, if you’re dehydrated, your brain is going to feel foggy, concentration will be poor and energy levels low. The body really likes warm drinks (about blood temperature). Start the day with some warm lemon water to flush through the liver. You can also sip this with some immune-boosting ginger throughout the day.
There’s a myriad of herbal teas which also boost immunity; echinacea, peppermint, red bush, green, rosehip and turmeric. Have one on the go throughout the day. Soups containing loads of vegetables are also great immune boosters; chicken broth is thought to help fight viruses. If you can boil up the bones to make a chicken stock first, even better!
Get some exercise
This is more difficult now with formal exercising venues, as well as public parks, largely being closed. However, even if it’s a stroll around the block, getting some fresh air (away from other people) is great for the immune system. However excessive exercise actually depletes immunity, so for some perhaps an enforced ‘slow-down’ may be good. Don’t overdo it.
Get creative with some kind of exercise routine. Running up and down stairs, press-ups, core exercise, squats and lunges can all be carried out at home. Yoga, Pilates and other stretching exercises only require a mat: there are plenty of free videos online to follow in order to keep motivated.
Most importantly, try to stay positive. This is a phase in time that will pass. However, the more you can do to keep yourself healthy the better you’ll come out the other side.