Foods to Support Immunity & Stress Relief

As we’ve seen over these past several weeks, people are flocking to the grocery store to stock up on supplies for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing social distancing policies. Toilet paper and sanitizer are obviously at the tops of people’s lists, but have you considered the food you’re buying? In times like this, the inclination is often highly-processed foods with a long shelf life, but these aren’t the best options for supporting your immune system and mitigating the effects of stress on your body. 

We’re here to discuss some of the food items that you may want to consider purchasing during this time of crisis, rather than just bread, milk, eggs, and pasta. Obviously these items may vary depending on any dietary needs or restrictions, but hopefully it will give you some ideas for foods that can really support the health of you and your family.

But first, let’s give you some general information about what makes the following foods so beneficial.  

The Power of Plants

When it comes to the best foods to be eating right now, plants are where it’s at. Fruits and veggies are loaded with beneficial compounds called phytonutrients, which act as antioxidants and support healthy body function, including immunity. Phytonutrients are what give the produce its bright colors, so the more different colors you eat, the greater variety of phytonutrients you’re consuming.

Low Stress Foods

We are currently under a tremendous amount of stress, which means that our bodies are experiencing very high levels of the stress hormone cortisol consistently. Cortisol is not only the stress hormone, but is also involved in a wide range of other processes such as the body’s inflammatory response, blood sugar regulation, sleep cycles, blood pressure, and memory function. Because of its involvement in these other processes, having it chronically sitting at high levels can have far-reaching health impacts.

Eating a lot of processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and simple carbohydrates can exacerbate the effects of stress by triggering cortisol responses in our body. Eating mostly low-stress foods, such as fresh produce, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates (ie whole and minimally processed foods) can help mitigate those effects and won’t have the same dramatic impacts on cortisol levels.

What’s on Our Grocery List

Frozen Fruits

Frozen fruits and veggies are nearly identical nutritionally to fresh ones.  Some frozen fruits that we recommend are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and mangos. You can get big packages of these pre-frozen fruits, which will keep for about 6-9 months. Be sure to check the expiration dates on the packages you are buying, though. You can also freeze sliced bananas for use in smoothies. Simply cut it into slices and store in a sealed container. 

Ideas for use: 

  • Smoothies are a great way to make sure you’re eating enough fruits and veggies. Here are a couple of our favorite recipes:
    • 1 cup mixed berries, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 handful baby spinach, 1 cup frozen cauliflower rice. Add water and blend to desired consistency.
    • 1/2 cup frozen mango, 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 cup old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower rice, unsweetened almond milk. Blend to desired consistency.
  • Use as a topping for overnight oats or cooked oats.

Frozen Vegetables

As with fruits, frozen vegetables will keep for a long time and pack a nutritional punch. Some frozen vegetables that we recommend you pick up are cauliflower (florets or riced), peas, broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, and spinach. Again, keep an eye on expiration dates, but pre-frozen veggies are expected to keep for 8-10 months.

Ideas for use:

  • Add frozen cauliflower to your smoothies
  • Cauliflower rice & quinoa tacos – use the cauliflower-quinoa mixture in place of meat
  • Toss frozen bell peppers into a fry pan and cook to add them to an omelette.

Potatoes

Need a break from all the frozen veggies? Potatoes have got your back. They can be kept raw for up to 2-3 months in the proper conditions. They are also one of the most versatile vegetables, and have several different variations, so you never get sick of them! (At least, we never do.)

Ideas for use:

  • Sweet potato toasts with almond butter and cinnamon
  • Roasted sweet potato with over-easy eggs
  • Sweet potato mash with shredded coconut and maple syrup
  • Make your own veggie burger – it’s surprisingly simple: just cook the potatoes until soft, then toss them into a food processor with some seasoning and other veggies. Form them into patties and cook!

Dried or Canned Beans

Dried and canned legumes are also a great option for long-term storage. Dried beans are good for up to 2-3 years if stored properly. And canned beans can last 3-5 years. Just be sure to look for BPA-free cans when you’re shopping. These foods are a good source or fiber and protein. 

Ideas for use:

  • Rice & beans
  • Soups
  • Black bean dip

Nuts

Nuts are a great source of healthy fats and protein, and properly stored will keep for 6 months or longer. These make a great snack and can be used in meals as well.

Oats

Another great source of energy and fiber that can be kept dried for a significantly long period, oats are a versatile option that can be stored dry for up to 2 years.

Ideas for use:

  • Overnight or hot oats
  • Process in a food processor to use as flour in muffins
  • Make-your-own crazy granola recipe
  • Toss them in the blender with your smoothie ingredients to make a thicker, more satisfying smoothie

Quinoa

Quinoa is another nutritious food that you should stock up on. Unlike other plants, quinoa is a complete protein. It’s also a great source of fiber. Quinoa is simple to prepare and can take on almost any flavor profile. Dried quinoa can keep for 2-3 years when stored properly.

Ideas for use:

  • Sweet quinoa breakfast porridge
  • Quinoa pizza crust
  • Quinoa pilaf

Heartier Fruits and Veggies

You should also consider picking up some produce with a slightly longer shelf-life than less hearty options. For example, cruciferous veggies (like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) can keep for a good chunk of time stored properly in the refrigerator. Citrus fruits and apples also tend to keep longer than fruits like bananas and berries, so those are options to consider as well.

 

It is a stressful and unprecedented situation that we have all been thrown into. While most of what is going on is far out of our control, we do get some say in the matter of our health and the way eat is a fantastic starting point. Try to remain calm and take precautions to keep yourself and those around you safe.  

 

*Please keep in mind that the time periods suggested to keep these items are general and you should always follow the product’s specific expiration dates*

3 Self-Care Tips for Social Distancing

We’ve all heard about how self-care is important for our health, but it’s particularly critical right now in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. This is a particularly stressful time for many of us and chronically high levels of stress can decrease our immune system function, increase inflammation in our bodies, disrupt our sleep, and more. Self-care is an essential step in mitigating the effects of chronic stress on our bodies.

First, it’s a misconception that self-care is just about relaxing and spa days. Yes, self-care can be about recharging and doing things you enjoy, but it’s also about protecting yourself and setting boundaries. In a time when a 1 minute scroll through your Facebook feed is enough to incite panic over toilet paper supplies, protective boundaries now are critical.

Self-Care Tip 1: Limit your news (and fake news) exposure

Now is a great time to either take a break from social media or limit how much time you spend on it. Likewise, limiting how much time you spend reading or watching the news is also a good idea. All of these headlines circulating and posts from your neighbors are draining, stressful, and depressing. While you need to stay informed, you also need to balance that with your mental and emotional health. Some options short of full-out cold turkey: Give yourself 30 minutes on social media a day, watch the morning or evening news and avoid reading news sites during the day, choose just one outlet to follow for news, or for every news article you read about coronavirus, read one fun thing (here are the Google Search results for funny kitten videos – you’re welcome).

Self-Care Tip 2: Re-focus on you

During this time of social distancing, we can become hyper-focused on the feelings of isolation…or on feelings of stress over having your children home from school for 2 weeks. Try to instead focus on finding ways to use this time to your benefit. Maybe it means sleeping in, taking advantage of the time to get outside and get some fresh air and Vitamin D, or working on a fun project you never have time for. This is a really stressful time and we can’t ignore the very real impacts that this is having on us, mentally, physically, financially. It’s important to carve out what turf we can for our well-being at this time.

Self-Care Tip 3: Energy flows where attention goes

Pay careful attention to how much energy you are giving to this pandemic situation. Is it the topic of all your conversations? Are your thoughts being taken over by worries? What is your motivation for the things you are doing daily – is it fear? We only have so much energy to go around and it has to come from somewhere, so ask yourself: where is it being drained from if you’re dedicating most of it to this stressful situation?

I suggest setting limits on how much you talk about this situation. Honestly, saying “I’d rather talk about something else” will probably be a relief to your conversation partner as well! If your thoughts are being overrun by worries, then taking a break or setting time limits on social media/the news will definitely be helpful. Practicing mindfulness activities will also help bring more awareness to those thought patterns and help you redirect.

 

We want to hear from you! How are you practicing self-care these days? Leave it in the comments!