This month in the monthly Nutrition class at SEED Eating Disorders Services, we covered nutrition and immunity, which in this current covid climate is even more poignant.
Here’s the basics of what we looked at.
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Instead of thinking too much about foods being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, let us think more about a balance of needed nutrients, about getting the healthier nutrients the body needs, and the other things to be left to have in moderation. Of course, there are foods that are not so good for us, like refined sugars, and saturated fats. This does not mean you cannot indulge in a pastry now and then or some sweets…balance and moderation are key. You can also live healthily without these foods. The choice is yours on that one.
Think of food as a type of maintenance medicine and a strengthening medicine. Getting the right nutrients gives you energy and health to accomplish what you need, and to your better ability. Nutritional deficiency can affect mood and brain function, make you tired and lose focus.
Here are the six main groups of nutrients, of which we need all six in order to be healthy:
Sometimes in literature, we see a seventh added – fibre. Getting enough fruit and vegetables and complex carbohydrates should meet fibre requirements.
Fats are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and trans fats. Trans fats are not good for us and so need to be eaten in moderation. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are essential nutrients and must not be avoided – we need some fat for healthy functioning, and fat is not the enemy! It is about focusing on the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fat over the trans fats. Trans fats are found in things like pastries and commercially friend foods. Trans fats can cause clogging of the arteries if you eat too much of it. Look out for the term ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’, as this is the source of trans fats.
The average adult needs between 2000 and 2500 calories a day. We need around 1200 just to maintain organs and baseline functioning without any walking, moving, studying and so on. The brain alone needs around 500 calories a day to maintain itself. Make sure you don’t go more than a few hours without food (unless sleeping). Some people are OK on three meals a day, some are better with 5-6 smaller meals, or three meals and two snacks. Don’t skip meals.
Here is a succinct write – up of foods in the six main groups, how much we need, and why we need them:
Using this information and these guidelines, you should be able to create meals that are balanced, or at least get all food groups in a day.
YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Your immune system helps you keep well from virus, bacteria and infection. It also triggers an inflammatory response, which helps in wound healing after surgery. Therefore, it is important to prepare for surgery with healthy nutrition, and to keep on with good nutrition when your surgery is completed. You may feel sick for a day or two following surgery, but it is still important to have some healthy nutrients. If you do not feel you can stomach solid food, a smoothie, soup, or some yogurt may be a good start to begin eating after surgery. It is also important to have enough fluids after surgery and to not become dehydrated, so sipping water is helpful, or perhaps fresh lemon squeezed in water as will be mentioned later, for a dose of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for good immunity, and has been said to speed up wound healing.
Some good sources of vitamin C include:
Fruits, and especially citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, as well as kiwis and strawberries
Vegetables, and bell peppers (especially the yellow ones)
PLENTY OF PROTEIN FOR HEALING AND REPAIR
Protein has a significant role in healing. It is important to make sure you are not deficient in protein before surgery, and then to make sure you are eating enough protein after surgery. It will be helpful to make sure you are getting some protein-rich food every day.
Some healthy protein-rich foods are:
Cheese (but can be very high in saturated fat, so eat in moderation)
Yogurt (later you will see how yogurt can be added to smoothies too)
Different types of fish
Chicken and Turkey
Different types of beans, lentils etc.
Vegetarian meat alternatives
Milk, soya milk, almond milk etc.
If you are due for surgery of any sort, before your surgery avoid foods that increase the inflammatory response. Foods that increase the inflammatory response include refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and white flour/white bread; saturated fats from red meat and organ meats; trans fats from commercially baked cookies, cakes and pastries; and alcohol.
‘Superfoods’ is simply a name that is sometimes given to certain foods that are especially nutrient – rich, with an ability to especially affect health in a positive way. Even if you don’t regularly have most or all of these, it will be helpful to choose a couple of favourites and add them to your weekly food intake. Here is a list of some of the more common ‘superfoods’:
Dark leafy greens (also broccoli)
Berries ( Blueberries are often considered the top berry superfood, but all the berries are great too!)
Nuts and seeds
All kinds of beans
Yogurt (the less sugary the better)
If you fancy a little chocolate, dark chocolate has been listed as a superfood. This could be in chocolate bar form, or in the drink form.