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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Gird your loins

The threat out there against us is very real: a tiny speck of a incomplete bit of genetic material is taking down hundreds of thousands of people, wreaking havoc on mankind, on the economy, on life as we know it ... on 'normal', and there is seemingly little we can do to combat this. Except there actually is. With very little effort you can help give yourself and your family a bit of armor against this virus. How? By wisely choosing foods that boost your immune response, that keep you in tiptop shape to be in your best form when you go to battle.

The foods you eat may be more of an after-thought for you normally, but as we spend more and more time at home, and less and less time running around, doing our normal busy-day things, we are investing extra effort into cooking. Planning our shopping to minimize our trips to the grocery store is step one. Step two is making sure we use very bit of what we buy, and not being wasteful with our food purchases. I don't know about you, but at first I was rather ambitious in the kitchen, cooking bigger and lengthier 'project meals', many of which turned out amazing. Now I am starting to bide my time, making better use of the capabilities of the oven, for example, or slow cooker, rather than creating works of culinary art. Beyond just falling into doing-it-all fatigue, I guess I have realized that those knock-it-out-of-the-park meals are fun and fabulous, but in order to get to everything else on my to-do list, I need to budget my time into each of the things I need to accomplish. So. That said, let's look at what we can contribute to our daily intake that might make a positive impact:

Eat more of:

1. Foods that have nutrients that boost your immune response to include:

-Colorful fruits and veggies. With the peel! Nutrients that are unique to plants (phytonutrients) that cannot be replicated in a pil or other form. Also great sources of vitamin C and other immunity-boosting nutrients. They are also excellent sources of fiber and fluid. Especially leafy greens are a great source of vegetable iron (which is best absorbed with foods high in acids), magnesium and

-Foods that are high in vitamin C (like fresh fruits and veggies, Vitamin E (like almonds and sunflower seeds and avocados) and foods that are high in zinc (like legumes, eggs, nuts, shellfish and dairy as well as whole grains).

2. Foods that will keep you feeling full longer to include:

-Foods high in fiber like fruits and veggies (unpeeled!), whole grains like whole wheat, oats, and grains like farro, barley or quinoa

-Foods that are high in good-for-you fats like nuts, olives and olive oils, fish, and avocados.

3. Foods you love and enjoy. Yes, doughnuts and cakes are maybe not the most nutrient-filled food options but right now we need some comfort food, and not having guilt over the foods we eat that make us feel better is just as important as eating the foods that ARE nutrient-dense. Enjoy foods like dark chocolate that taste amazing AND is a good source of fiber, magnesium and iron (all nutrients that support good health).

Poor diet contributes to a number of unhealthy characteristics like weight gain, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular and circulatory ailments. Poor diet even more than lack of activity is a contributor to being over-weight, regardless of age.

Eat less of:

1. Processed foods. Heavily processed foods can suppress your immune system by causing an inflammatory response (basically diverting your immune reaction from targeting what it should be working against - in this case corona virus, right - and instead, focusing its efforts against the parts of your body failing due to poor nutrition. Heavily processed foods also contain more man-made materials like preservatives and chemicals, and have significantly less nutrients and fiber.

2. Sugars. Sugars are empty calories. They contribute zero nutrients. They don't keep you full. They don't give you lasting energy. They don't contribute to your immune response. They are just ... calories.... and generally in a larger quantity than your body actually needs.

3. Foods that make you feel stressed out or unhappy. I may go on and on about eating more dark leafy greens and such, but if you don't like them, then find something else that might still be a healthy option and gives you joy. Don't give yourself more stress about what you are eating than necessary. it is already a rigmarole just to get the foods to your cupboards; let's not beat ourselves up if we don't prescribe to the 'perfect' diet regimen. There is no such thing. That being said, inappropriate amounts of foods can definitely be controlled: spoon your ice cream into a bowl instead of eating it out of the container; serve yourself a portion of that cake and then leave the kitchen to enjoy it rather than standing over the counter; pour your chips into a bowl rather than eating out of the bag; take the time to control your portions so you minimize the possibility of overeating and focus instead on enjoying what you've chosen to eat.

Friends, if I may, just one more thing about boosting your immune system: It isn't just food. One of the most important pieces of strength for your immune response is to get enough sleep. Sleep is as important for your body to recover from each day that has passed as it is to get ready for the onslaught of what is coming.

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