These months of quarantine have been tough on everyone, from emotional stress and anxiety to having to learn new ways to co-exist with our loved ones in lockdown. But, not least on our diets.
Staying at home makes us more likely to reach for the fridge to cope with stress and anxiety. And if we’re not careful, this could be dangerous for much more than our waistlines.
A poor diet negatively impacts all areas of your health and well-being, from our heart health to blood sugar levels and even how we feel. But there’s one element that we’re particularly concerned about right now – how well our bodies can fight off disease.
But can a poor diet really put you more at risk from coronavirus? And, conversely, can eating well protect you?
Let’s go ahead and find out.
How does your diet affect your health?
Eat too much bad food, and it’ll affect your health. Sounds simple, right? But what exactly is ‘bad food,’ why is it bad for you, and what does it do to your body anyway?
Bad food is food that has a negative impact on your health. For example, this includes:
- Sugary drinks, such as cola
- Fast food, including takeaways, pizzas (not including homemade), fried foods, etc.
- Sweetened breakfast cereals
- White bread
- Large amounts of pastries
- White chocolate
- Heavily processed foods
- Large quantities of red meat
So, why are these products bad for you?
Each of these has a particular impact on your health, making your body work harder (and not in a good way) to process it to use for energy. For example, eating lots of sugar could cause a spike in blood glucose levels, while others push your calorie levels over the daily recommended limits, or some contain other products that are harmful to your health.
Eating too much of these could lead to:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- And most importantly here, a lowered immune system
Why does what you eat affect your immune system?
A poor diet, especially one containing too much sugar, prevents your immune system from working to its full capacity and puts you more at risk from disease. In addition, it hinders the body's ability to attack alien bacteria and viruses that cause infections. Aka, a lowered immuno-response.
This all means that you will be less equipped to fight off any viral attacks that come your way. Conversely, eating good, healthful foods, and those rich in nutrients help your body fight infection. For example, filling your diet with nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lentils, and more, gives it the best boost possible.
What’s the connection with coronavirus?
Now that we know that food has an impact on your immune system. What does this mean for your body and coronavirus?
At the moment, there is much uncertainty around COVID-19. So, while we cannot say for sure that what you eat impacts your ability to fight off the virus, indicators are there than it does play a role.
In the US today, the rate of people who are metabolically healthy stands at just 12%. This means people who are not only not overweight, but who in medical tests, such as general blood analysis, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. display normal-range results.
Those who do not are at higher risk of acquiring medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc. which are believed to also be risk factors in terms of mortality rates for coronavirus.
Today, poor metabolic health is said to be the leading cause of poor health in the United States and a pertinent issue even beyond COVID-19. This means that a focus on a healthy diet is essential, not only in times of coronavirus, but for your overall health.
What other factors can impact my immune system?
Now, diet, while important, is not alone in supporting your immune system. Instead, you need to take an approach of overall body health.
As you slip deep into the land of nod, your body is hard at work rebuilding itself. During rest, the immune system releases cytokine, a protective chemical that helps the body repair. When you don’t sleep, your immune system is lowered, meaning you are more prone to illnesses and it’s harder to fight them off.
Your body needs to work to keep healthy. A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to health-risk factors, such as obesity and diabetes. Both of these can put you more at risk if you catch a virus. Adding in movement to your routine means you not only look healthier but are healthier on the inside too.
Like with sleep, there is a link between mental well-being and cytokines, those nervous system cells. Although precise research is still ongoing as to precisely why, the link between poor mental health and susceptibility to illness is clear. That’s why, if you have a mental illness, it’s vital you take extra care of your body or seek help to do so.
Underlying health conditions
In the news, we’ve been hearing a lot about coronavirus mortality rates and underlying conditions. The link is clear, if you have an underlying condition, such as a heart issue, kidney problems, or others, you may be more at risk of COVID-19. But that’s not all, certain illnesses can also make you more susceptible to other viral and bacterial infections, such as the flu too.
What positive steps can you take in your life right now?
While you can’t change your body overnight, the steps you take today will have an impact on your life in future. Here are some of the positive steps you can talk to a better, healthier you.
1. Recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight
“New year, new you,” “I’ll start on Monday,” “Oh! Just this once.” We’ve all said or at least thought these phrases at one time or another. But the fact is, the perfect time to change how you eat isn’t sometime in the future – it’s right now.
Living on future promises isn’t going to improve your health. The change comes from the decisions you make right this moment. Having that one last ‘blow out’ before starting your diet is going to do nothing more than make it harder to start as your blood sugar levels soar and then drop.
Even though we might all be guilty of trying this one, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Instead, make a conscious decision to eat better today, to take a little more exercise. But remember! Change doesn’t happen overnight, so take your time, don’t rush, just start making better decisions from this moment on.
2. Choose healthier snacks
Safe to say that during lockdown, we’ve all been visiting the snack cupboard a little more than we should. Stuck inside, we’re more likely to boredom eat and fill up our work breaks with a little snacking. While it might be tasty, this isn’t great for your waistline.
But just because we should stay at home and be careful doesn’t mean your diet needs to suffer too much. And you can definitely still enjoy some snacking. The trick here is to be smart about it and aim for a healthier alternative.
Try healthy snacks like fruit or nuts or create something more interesting like peanut butter and apples. That way, you fulfill your crunch-craving, but don’t jeopardize your health.
3. Get moving
Staring at four-walls is no fun, and it can leave you demotivated, especially if your ‘commute’ now includes a bedroom to kitchen route and back. But the worst thing you can do right now is to stop moving.
Yes, your fitness classes may have stopped or moved online, but that’s no excuse to give up on your health. Instead, you need to find a new fitness routine to work for you. Whether that’s some at-home activities, like a 5-minute dance break in your work or some awesome workouts with Verv (we’ve got yoga, cardio, and more), what’s important is you keep moving.
Not only is this good for your body, but it’s also good for your mind too. As you exercise, your body releases happy hormones that boost your mood, and this only does good for your immune system.
4. Eat foods that support the immune system
As they say, you are what you eat, and if you want a healthy body and immune system, you have to eat food that supports that. Choosing to add lots of greens and vitamin-rich foods to your diet, while cutting down on saturated fats, is an excellent way to support your immune system and keep your body healthy.
While those fat-filled snacks might be tasty on the lips, it wouldn’t do your body any good in the long term. Make a decision today to add more healthy, immune-supportive foods to your diet and reduce the amount of non-helpful foods you consume. Remember, a complete lifestyle change doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t worry if it takes a while for you to get your diet sorted.
5. Consider professional help
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t get your diet under control, it might be time to seek professional assistance. You might think, “I don’t need help in eating.” But the truth is, everyone needs a little help and support at times to get things rich.
Whether your issues with your diet come from not knowing what to eat to impulse control, working with a specialist (dietician or psychology) to address your eating issues is a good idea. Your specialist will be able to help you uncover where your eating issues lie and advise on what steps to take to resolve it. They might even have some helpful diet-hacks too.
COVID-19 and Diet Wrap Up
While there is no direct link “eat right and you won’t get COVID-19,” your diet does have an impact on your health and that’s a fact. Eating right, taking care of your mental and physical health plays an essential role in your body’s ability to fight off disease. So, in these tough times, we at Verv, wish you to take care of yourself and your family.