The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted millions of lives and most of us are coming to grip with the “new normal” of social isolation, self quarantining, home schooling, and working (or not working) from home. In her recent Harvard Medical School article, Dr. Uma Naidoo, discusses how healthy eating can reduce anxiety and boost your immune system during these uncertain times.
The negative effects of stress on the immune system are well known. Dr. Naidoo explains, “the unfortunate reality is that stress worsens feelings of low mood or angst, and it also suppresses our immune systems. Therefore, targeting immune-boosting foods will have a dual effect — you may feel less anxious and boost your immunity.”
She recommends choosing the following immune boosting foods:
- Citrus fruit and red bell peppers (both rich in vitamin C, which in some studies has been shown to support your immune system)
- Spices: ginger, garlic, turmeric, and capsaicin (from chili peppers) can be easily added to soups, stews, stir-frys, or salad dressings.
- Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, clams, mussels, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks. You may recognize zinc as an ingredient is the cold remedy Zicam, as zinc has some virus-fighting effects.
- Magnesium-rich foods may help you to feel calmer, and help support immunity. Stress can deplete our magnesium levels too. Examples are legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains.
- Fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids. A study on medical students in 2011 was one of the first to show that omega-3s may help reduce anxiety.
- Eat probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, miso, and kefir.
- Add some antioxidants to your anti-anxiety diet, which can support your immune system.
These healthy immune-boosting foods are also better for your waistline than your typical overly-processed comfort foods such as chips, baked foods or candy. Dr. Naidoo suggests we control our environments. If there isn’t junk food in the cabinet, we can’t eat it. “We all have to eat, so attending to our nutrition is something we can all control, and then reap the benefits of an improved mood”, boosted immunity, and a healthy weight.