I was asked recently to put together a list of my three best tips for preparing healthy meals during the coronovirus stay-at-home order. Here’s what I came up with, great ideas for baby boomers and older adults alike.
1) Minimize trips to the grocery store. You have plenty of spare time now, so experiment with new recipes, plan menus, make shopping lists–and stick to them.
2) Let kids help. They’re “stuck” at home too, so keep them engaged and involved however you can: picking out new recipes, planning menus, rinsing fresh produce, chopping with “safe” knives (e.g., plastic), stirring, serving, clearing the table–whatever you can do to let them help while keeping them safe.
3) And most importantly, eat with your immune system’s health in mind. Here’s what we know: (a) 70% – 80% of the cells that make up your body’s immune system reside in your gut, and (b) depending on what you eat and other factors, the trillions of bacteria also living in the GI system can either harm or protect your immune cells.
But our modern diet contributes to an imbalance of these microbes: excessive intake of highly processed, high-sugar, high-salt, low-nutrient foods, coupled with low amounts of plant-derived fibers, prefers the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
So you want to eat foods that favor the growth of beneficial gut bacteria over harmful ones: a fiber-rich whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, roots, tubers, leafy green and cruciferous vegetables. These provide nutrients for the “good guy” microbes. Avoid highly-sugared and processed foods.
With food being the biggest driver of a healthy gut, here are five tips for happy GI system:
1) Increase the diversity of your food intake. The more diverse the diet, the more diverse and healthy the microbes living in your GI tract. Pick up an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable at every shopping trip. Another way to increase diversity is to shop at ethnic stores–Asian, Middle Eastern.
2) Eat fiber-rich whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, roots, tubers, leafy green and cruciferous vegetables. These provide nutrients for the “good guy” microbes. Avoid highly-sugared and processed foods.
3) Restrict calories. A high-calorie diet decreases microbial diversity. Fasting is also an effective way to increase the diversity of friendly organisms. For example, you can limit eating to an 8-hour feeding period followed by a 16-hour fast (eat from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm).
4) Buy organic. Many chemicals and pesticides are detrimental to the friendly organisms.
5) But maybe the easiest strategy, instead of concentrating on when to eat or specific foods, is just to EAT A LITTLE BIT OF A LOT of different foods. This is where a product like Juice Plus+ comes in handy, 30 different fruits and vegetables in capsules or chewables and proven to support the immune system.