Eating well is perhaps the single best step we can take towards keeping ourselves healthy in the best of times, so it’s more important than ever during the COVID-19 crisis. Diet doesn’t just affect our overall health, but how we feel. The stress and anxiety we’re all inevitably experiencing at the moment are particularly draining, so our diet can play a big role in making sure energy reserves don’t become depleted. So here are a few “food goals” to stick to if you can, with some links to more information if you want to explore further.
These tips are intended for those who are not following a specific diet based on medical advice, religious teachings or personal preference.
Five Food Goals
1. Nutrient dense foods. Try to eat nutrient dense food when you can. The term “nutrient density” refers to the concentration of micronutrients and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, in a given food. Most experts agree that nutrient dense foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, unsalted nuts and seeds, lean meats, poultry, tofu and other minimally processed meat substitutes. However, some argue that red meat and full fat dairy are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and should be included. A good rule of thumb is to choose food that is minimally processed or unaltered from its natural state wherever possible.
2. Eat your Greens. Low fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to poor health. Including them as part of your daily diet may reduce the risk of certain diseases including heart disease and certain types of cancer. There are literally thousands of compounds within them that act as ‘nature’s pharmacy', including vitamins and minerals, dietary fibre and a host of beneficial non-nutrient substances like plant sterols, flavonoids and other antioxidants. Use whatever you can get your hands on.
3. Dietary Kryptonite: What to avoid. We need the best nutrition we can find. The food choices we make affect our health, mood and resilience. If you are regularly eating processed, convenience foods, now’s the time to consider stopping or reducing. That’s things like processed meat, biscuits, cakes, crisps and sweetened beverages, especially those containing fructose. One of the benefits will be reducing salt, which is often hidden in processed foods. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure which puts a strain on our heart and blood vessels.
4. Beware the booze. We know you know this, but too much booze really isn’t good for anyone. A recent study of studies showed that drinking more than 100g of alcohol a week, that’s about 5-6 glasses of wine, could increase your risk of dying from all causes.
5. Extra Boosts. There are some additional extras that could be helpful. Adding herbs and spices offers flavour plus essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Don’t forget though, salt is not a spice: We need to reduce, not increase, our salt intake.
The bottom line is that there’s no ONE diet that’s perfect for everyone. The exact makeup of a healthy diet will vary based on your age, gender, genetics and degree of physical activity. But sticking to a few good rules should help.
And if you want to dig deeper, there are loads of helpful links below to give you more - ahem - food for thought.