Dr. Sarah Schenker is a PhD Registered Dietitian, Author, Writer and Broadcaster. Sarah is an Accredited Sports Dietitian and Registered Public Health Nutritionist, a member of the British Dietetic Association; The Nutrition Society; The Guild of Health Writers and has served on both professional and government committees.
A healthy diet CANNOT stop you from becoming infected with the coronavirus. First line defence is to follow the government advice of washing your hands regularly, coughing into a tissue and staying apart.
However, staying well and healthy is more important that ever before. Eating well can boost your immunity and healthy behaviours will help to get you through these challenging and difficult times.
This is an important time to stay well and healthy and part of staying healthy is to stay well hydrated. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water and water is important for lots of different functions including respiration and keeping the lungs healthy.
If you don’t consume enough fluids, over time the body will become dehydrated. Even 1% dehydration (equivalent of 1% of body weight water loss) has negative effects on both physical and cognitive functions and these become more severe as dehydration gets worse.
Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink as this is not always a good indicator of mild dehydration, in fact, feelings of thirst may not kick in until the body is around 2-3% dehydrated.
Often when large volumes of plain water are consumed in on go, the body detects an excess and may excrete more than it needs to. It is much better to consume small regular amounts of water throughout the day to maintain optimum hydration.
Being dehydrated can make us feel tired and lethargic, but it also impacts on mood, short term memory and ability to concentrate. Mild dehydration can make you feel irritable and grumpy, and in these challenging times ahead it is even more important that we try to maintain a good mood and stay positive
Working from home can be a real challenge and a typical time to feel lethargic is in the middle of the afternoon, known as the mid-afternoon slump. Mild dehydration is often a key factor as people tend to consume most of their fluids in throughout the morning and then tend to reduce their fluid intake after lunch. It is the mid-afternoon slump that can lead to low mood, lack of motivation to be active and effect concentration levels. Maintaining good hydration throughout the day can improve mood and the ability to stay focused and well as feeling energised and having a sense of wellbeing.
Another challenge some of us will face is working too near the fridge! Being well hydrated can also help to control appetite. It’s a common mistake to confuse feeling a bit hungry with actually being thirsty. So we turn to snacks instead of water which means we take in unnecessary calories. The mid-afternoon slump can also lead people to crave sugar when they don’t need it. Maintaining good hydration reduces these cravings and stops you from over-eating.
Boost your immune system
Good immunity is really important just now. Two key vitamins you need are vitamin C and vitamin D. Vitamin C is needed for producing white blood cells and antibodies that fight off infections. Vitamin D is important for innate immunity, this is the way the body prevents the entry and spread of pathogens (including viruses that can cause disease). Vitamin D stimulates the production of powerful substances in the cells that line the respiratory tract and protect the lungs from infection.
The body doesn’t store vitamin C so we need to include vitamin C-rich foods in our diets every day. This includes foods like oranges, grapefruits, kiwi, and green leafy veg. Obviously these are subject to availability, so it’s worth knowing that frozen peas, berries and long life orange juice also counts.
From April onwards we start to build our stores of vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. While heeding the advice to stay at home, try to get out in the fresh air at least once a day, exposing your face and fore arms to sunlight without sunblock or protection; 20 minutes should be long enough. When it comes to diet there aren’t that many foods naturally high in vitamin D. Ones that are include oily fish, red meat, liver and eggs. It is a good idea to consider taking a supplement.