Many people are worried about how to stay healthy and protected during the Covid-19 epidemic, and wonder what can be done in terms of diet to get the best health outcomes in the shortest possible time. What are the nutritional strategies that deliver results and are backed by scientific evidence?
In my years of private practice as a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, there is one thing I have advised my clients over and over again. Eat more leafy greens! It is not that people hadn’t heard it before, we all have. What I realised is that most people simply don’t know the facts of how what we eat very much determines our state of health; physical, emotional and mental. Nutrition and lifestyle medicine are not yet mainstream medical practice, so often people are baffled as to why their doctor never informed them how to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol or high blood pressure by making more appropriate choices in terms of nutrition and lifestyle.
What we are seeing with Covid-19 is that people with chronic conditions in particular are vulnerable to be severely affected by the virus when exposed and infected. 1 in 3 adults worldwide suffer from two or more chronic conditions. (This equates to more than 1.5 billion people worldwide!) The most common global conditions are cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, stroke, lung cancer, back and neck pain. Inflammation is a key component of chronic disease, and we are currently learning more about the Cytokine storm, the excessive inflammatory response to Covid-19 in people severely affected by the virus, that may ultimately be one of the key factors contributing to the high mortality rate. The deprivation of oxygen, the blood clotting leading to stroke, the frostbite like symptoms and red dots and rashes, could possibly all be linked to this Cytokine storm.
So, what can be done apart from observing excellent hygiene practices, social distancing and waiting for the scientific community to develop a safe and effective vaccine and effective treatment options? The strategy that is most effective from a nutritional medicine point of view is to adopt a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet and lifestyle. The benefits are extensive. For people who do not have a pre-existing chronic condition it can be an excellent strategy for holistic health and disease prevention.
A predominantly whole food plant-based diet is:
- Compatible with the human body and not inflammatory – it contains many green leafy vegetables, colourful fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, cold pressed seed and nut oils, whole grains. A standard western diet is crowded with sugary and processed foods, red meat, cheese, animal produce, fried food, hydrogenated oils, refined flour, added salt and additives, packaged baked goods, all of these in excess are associated with elevated inflammation, and other key health markers such as blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Focus on health and essential nutrients – instead of thinking ‘What do I feel like eating? – think: What does my body need for health and wellness? A predominantly whole food plant-based diet provides all the essential macro nutrients, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. It also provides fibre which is essential for a healthy microbiome – the beneficial microbes we co-exist with for our health and survival.
- Holistic health benefits – the benefits go well beyond physical health. It helps to feel emotionally more balanced, mentally focused and relaxed and overall experience more energy and vitality. We need this balanced health, because it is essential to the things we want to do in life and work, and help us be the best expression of ourselves.
- Budget – replacing meat and animal products with beans and legumes for protein isn’t only good for health, it is also good for the wallet. Beans and legumes are cheap! They are also an essential part of the diet of populations around the world that live the longest.
- Planet – if these reasons are not enough to take the step towards a more whole food and plant-based diet for you, then do it for our planet. The coming decades will be instrumental in terms of preventing the extinction of biological life on our Earth. If you think you are powerless to do something, think again. Animal agriculture and deforestation (because the land needed for animal agriculture) are two of the three leading causes of human caused greenhouse gas emissions. Every step you take towards a more plant-based diet counts.
Moving towards a predominantly whole food and plant-based diet and lifestyle is not only good for human health and wellness, it also contributes to a more sustainable and healthier environment and planet. The current Covid-19 pandemic is a good time to reconsider our future as individual, organisation and society from a more holistic perspective. When we put holistic health and wellness at the heart of decision making, at any level, we will move from being Economy and scarcity driven towards Ecology, a more harmonious and balanced way of living and being.
For more information about a predominantly whole food and plant-based diet, listen to this podcast, or wait for the next one on Nutrition to support immune health during Covid-19 and the flu season
About the author | After a 15-year international career in management and business development Petra Hooyenga redirected her studies and career towards health and healing. She is an Accredited Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and provides Personal Health Leadership mentoring programmes and Holistic health and wellness training and mentoring for business executives and their teams. For more information visit www.petrahooyenga.com or get a quick snapshot of your own personal State of Health here.