Staying home seems to be norm these days, as the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide. Being indoors, we end up ordering food at home. In fact, in Malaysia, food deliveries have gone up since the COVID-19 outbreak started. But in the long run, are our recent food choices necessarily good for our health?
Following our recent report on the useful tips which you can follow to help protect yourself from the virus, we’ve also been curious to find out more about immunity-boosting food to keep us safe from COVID-19. After all, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the immune system helps us to prevent or limit infection. Its role is to help recognise potentially “dangerous” microbes which may harm our body, before responding to address the problem. However, in the situation where the immune response cannot be activated when there is sufficient need, infection will occur.
Enter Charlotte Mei, a host, presenter and resident nutritionist at the Asian Food Network. “A balanced diet is of utmost importance in a time like this," she says. We recently talked to Charlotte about handy tips on the food which we should eat more of, the importance of food safety, and her favourite healthy recipes to prepare at home. But first, a disclaimer: while these pieces of advice are from a nutritionist, they are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Make sure to consult your doctor regarding a medical condition.
That said, if you are ready to strengthen yourself with immunity-boosting food during these trying times, go read on.
Maintain a balanced diet
A colourful plate usually indicates that you're eating a good variety of foods which are beneficial for your body
Charlotte's first advice is to ensure that each meal has adequate amounts of vegetables, lean protein (fish, chicken, tofu, lentils, eggs), as well as complex carbohydrates like wholegrain rice, wholemeal bread, sweet potato and brown rice vermicelli.
As a rough guide, she recommends that you try to fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with carbohydrates. It’s crucial to eat a variety of foods in order to benefit from their various nutrient profiles. She adds: "Consider eating vegetables and fruits from every colour of the rainbow, as differently coloured vegetables have different levels and types of antioxidants which are beneficial towards health.”
Vitamin supplements, but only if you need them
Vitamin C, which is usually found in fruits and vegetables such as orange, lemon and broccoli, maybe a major immunity-boosting food component, however, Charlotte shares that other ones such as vitamin A, E and D are just as important. It’s also good to note that unless we’re suffering from a vitamin or mineral deficiency, most of us actually do not require supplementation as long as we’re following a healthy, balanced diet.
Practise food safety, always
Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by practising good food safety habits
Aside from frequent handwashing before and after meals, Charlotte also recommends that we abide by these safe food preparation practices:
Wash all fruits and vegetables under running water. No special detergents are needed, but you can consider purchasing a brush to scrub your vegetables extra clean. Try not to peel the skins off (if edible) as they offer a great source of fibre in your diet.
Use separate chopping boards for raw and cooked food to avoid potential cross-contamination.
Store any left-over food in an air-tight container in the fridge. Ensure your fridge is at an optimal temperature of 4˚C, and -18˚C for your freezer.
Listen to your body
Regardless of the diets which you’re currently following, be it keto or low-carb, it’s important to listen to your body so that your immune system remains strong and healthy. According to Charlotte, every cue that your body gives you is valuable feedback which should not be ignored. Above all, consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, adequate carbohydrates, and protein is key to staying healthy.
Eating in can be fun too
Apart from breaking down recipes and producing videos about fuss-free meals for the Asian Food Network, Charlotte is also passionate about sharing her favourite, healthy recipes on her YouTube channel. Her channel’s catchy tagline #MeiTheFoodBeWithYou sees her whipping up recipes which we can easily replicate at home. Here are two of her favourites, a plant-based laarb gai(an asian salad that’s native to Thailand and Laos) and a Fillet O’Mack mackerel burger (yum!)
With these tips, we hope that you're now better equipped to care for your body and in choosing immunity-boosting food that's beneficial for your health and well-being. Remember to keep those hygiene levels up too, and stay safe.