Science Says Sunday – COVID-19 Nutrition

And…I’m back! Took a nice two week break from writing the blog to focus on some other things, but I’m officially back! As such, and because I’ve been experimenting with some cooking lately, I thought I would share a little bit about COVID-19 nutrition, because we’ve all been doing a whole lotta eating at home lately…at least I know I have!

The Centers for Disease Control has a great page on ‘Food and COVID-19‘ that I reviewed for today’s post. The main takeaways are (for those tl;dr folks):

  • There is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19 (aka takeout/delivery is safe to pick up and consume at home). Just remember wash your hands thoroughly and for 20 seconds before eating.
  • The risk of getting COVID-19 from food, treated drinking water, or food packaging is very low. Don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly and for 20 seconds before eating.
  • You should NOT use disinfectants designed for hard surfaces, such as bleach or ammonia, on food packaged in cardboard or plastic wrap. Also, don’t drink bleach or any other non-food/drink. Yikes.
  • To help cope with stress that may be related to the pandemic, take care of your body including good nutrition, as part of self-care.
  • Most importantly, dietary supplements aren’t meant to treat or prevent COVID-19. Certain vitamins and minerals (e.g., Vitamins C and D, zinc) may have effects on how our immune system works to fight off infections, as well as inflammation and swelling.
    • The best way to obtain these nutrients is through foods: Vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, Vitamin D in low-fat milk, fortified milk alternatives, and seafood, and zinc in lean meat, seafood, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
    • In some cases, dietary supplements may have unwanted effects, especially if taken in too large amounts, before surgery, or with other dietary supplements or medicines, or if you have certain health conditions.
    • If you are considering taking vitamins or dietary supplements, talk with your pharmacist, registered dietitian, or other healthcare provider before taking, especially when combining or substituting them with other foods or medicine.

There may be a lot of people out there pushing you to buy supplements and other things during this time, but rest assured that the best way to get the best nutrition and dietary nutrients your body may need is through eating well-balanced, nutritious meals! So stay away from people tryna sell you bottles of “covid-prevention liquids, pills, or mixtures” and run to the grocery store and stock up on veggies and fruits instead. Might be cheaper too! If you do decide to take supplements like Vitamin D, for example, make sure you consult with a physician or registered dietician to determine what you need and what specific dose you need.

Some of you have asked me about edelberry. While this has not been studied in the context of COVID-19 specifically, the best advice I found was from the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at The University of Arizona. Some evidence suggests it may ‘help boost immunity’ and possibly lengthen the duration of flu symptoms for example, though this evidence has not been rigorously tested (eg, unknown whether people who take edelberry are more likely to be healthier, younger, etc in general, or, if there is some placebo effect at play. That aside, what is cautioned with respect to edelberry is its potential contribution to the ‘cytokine storm’ we are seeing in some COVID-19 patients. The site states, “For this reason, to minimize the possibility that elderberry could aggravate the inflammatory “cytokine storm” associated with the more severe COVID-19 infections, it is recommended to stop elderberry at the first signs of infection (fever, cough, sore throat) and/or if you test positive for the virus.” Because you can test positive and NOT have any or only mild symptoms, it might be advisable to lay off the eldeberry juice or gummies.

Taking all that into consideration, we have cooked at home a lot lately, and today, sharing this salad, as it is one of my absolute favorites. You can make it with any combination or raw veggies, really, but the key if using kale, is to massage the kale with olive oil to soften it, and then squeeze some lemon over the entire salad. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on it, and voila! You have a healthy, nutrient packed salad!

Here’s another salad I love, and one that my mom has made for years. Use as a garnish, or eat alone. Made out of cactus and what is best known as ‘pico de gallo’!

I’ve also engaged the kids in cooking a lot lately. In fact, I have found that if the kids are involved, they take sooooo much pride in their cooking, that that they are more likely to eat it, especially if it’s something new like kale.

Anyway! So, after all that you want to know how to prevent getting sick with COVID-19?

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Watch your distance (stay 6 feet away from others)
  3. Wear your mask
  4. Avoid Crowded spaces
  5. Avoid Close Contact with others
  6. Avoid Closed spaces (indoors is worse than outdoors)

Six easy things, and they don’t cost you any money! Except of course unless you don’t already have a mask. Here are some you can buy if you still don’t have any at home. Oh yeah, and eat those healthy meals as much as possible. I won’t be mad at ya if you throw some fries on the side though, because honestly, that’s how I roll. It’s called balance. 😀

Science Says Sunday – Men’s Health

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First and foremost, a Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and father figures! Today’s post is focused on reminding all the men in our lives about keeping healthy habits. Did you know that the week leading up to Father’s Day (happy day to all the Father’s out there!), is National Men’s Health Week? A week to remind us all there are easy things we can do to help all the men in our lives stay healthy.

According to the CDC, leading causes of death in the US include:

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As such, here are five things to remember to ensure healthy lives for all men in our lives:

  1. Remember to get regular check ups
    • It’s important for men to know their family history. This can help doctor’s provide guidance for prevention and care when they go in for annual visits.
    • Schedule regular checkups with a
      • primary care physician
      • dermatologist
      • dentist
      • specialist (as needed)
    • Because not everyone has access to health care providers, some may have and/or inadequate or no health insurance, it’s important to also know how to perform some self-checks like knowing signs and symptoms for things like skin cancer and heart attacks/strokes.
  2. Know symptoms for heart attacks and strokes
    • Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among men in the US? Knowing the signs and symptoms is important to help secure help in a timely manner and get treatment that can be life saving!
      • Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a heart attack. If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack call 911 immediately. Major signs of a heart attack include:

        • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
        • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
        • Chest pain or discomfort
        • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
        • Shortness of breath

        For more information, visit the heart.org.

  3. Practice healthy habits
    • Diet
      • Eat healthy and include a variety of fruits and vegetables every day
    • Exercise
      • Controlling one’s weight can reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers, and can improve your mental health and mood. Adults need 2½ hours of physical activity each week.
    • Safety
      • Did you know that ‘unintentional injuries’ are the third leading cause of death in the US??
        • Practicing safety means wearing a seatbelt and wearing a helmet when biking, for example. Examples of unintentional injuries include traffic injuries, poisoning, falls, fire and burn injuries, and drowning. Practicing safety when involved in any of these activities is important!
  4. Seek help to ensure good mental health
    • Depression is also one of the leading causes of death in the US, for both men and women. Very important to also recognize the signs and symptoms of depression or anxiety to help maintain good mental health. According to the CDC,
      • Signs of depression include persistent sadness, grumpiness, feelings of hopelessness, tiredness and decreased energy, and thoughts of suicide.
      • Those that suffer from depression or anxiety should seek help as early as possible. If you or someone you care about is in crisis, please seek help immediately.
        • Call 911
        • Visit a nearby emergency department or your health care provider’s office
        • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor
  5. COVID-19 safety
    • I’d be remiss to not remind you about COVID-19 safety when so many states are being affected by increasing rates of transmission of the virus that causes this disease. While you’re probably tired of hearing about it, COVID-19 is not tired of you. Many people have lost their sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, etc to COVID-19, so I implore you to take it seriously. Three simple ways to help prevent COVID-19 infection are the three W’s:
      • Wear a mask
      • Wait distanced from others, 6 feet is preferable
      • Wash your hands

NC.gov: North Carolina COVID-19 Information Hub

    • Three other simple ways include avoiding the three C’s
      • Crowded spaces – bad news bears! But if you also find yourself in a crowded space, wear a mask and also try to stand physically distanced from others.
      • Close contact – stand 6 feet apart and try not to be in close contact for longer than 15 minutes without a mask on
      • Closed spaces – avoid close spaces if possible, and if you find yourself in one, definitely wear a mask and stand away from others

PM's Office of Japan on Twitter: "#COVID19 update: The experts on ...

 

Science Says Sunday – A COVID Summer

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Every summer, our family takes 2-3 weeks and heads to LA to visit family. We live in Alabama, so visits to LA aren’t too frequent otherwise. This summer – the summer of COVID-19 – we are unlikely to make our usual trip to LA, but similarly unlikely to do many of the the things that we are used to doing during the summer.

Our family has chosen to ‘stay home’ since our stay-at-home order was put in place. That means, no trips to LA, no summer camps, no sports, no visits with elderly grandparents. We stay home for several reasons:

1. Although we are young-ish and healthy-ish, we too are at risk for getting sick, possibly hospitalized, maybe even face death. Data from the US suggests that our hospitalizations and deaths are affected young, relatively healthy people, but in general, younger people than have been affected in other countries. This is possibly due to co-morbidities like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, for example. However many young people have gotten sick, hospitalized, and died due to covid-19 too. Take a look at the statistics for Alabama below:

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2. Even if we didn’t get SUPER sick, being out and out and mingling with others increases the risk of infecting others and possibly, infecting someone who COULD get super sick and die. We’d rather not have that on our conscience…so we #stayhome. Remember this?

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3. We are teaching our kids that there are is value in being responsible members of society. We are teaching them that it’s important to not be selfish. Even though they may not get super sick, they could very well get others sick, who can get someone who is vulnerable, sick. The domino effect is what we are trying to stop by staying home. This virus is going to run through the population until we have and effective treatment and vaccine. There are enough people out there continuing business as usual. The least we can do is stay home and reduce the number of people who are potentially exposed and at risk for getting sick/getting others sick. Not to mention, to help flatten the curve, remember?? We owe it to our health care workers to slow our roll. The right thing to do isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

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Staying home does not mean social isolation. It means we limit our interactions with others, visits to stores only for essentials and work. Socializing has become largely virtual or at a distance with neighbors and friends who have been strictly social distancing as well. We also take bike rides, play outside a lot, take car rides, play board games, try new recipes, read books, spend quality family time together that we otherwise haven’t had for years, complete home projects. SO MANY THINGS! We have yet to get bored, but we’re lucky. We have lots of space at home, and lots to keep us busy. For some that means, being in an apartment all day or a home with multiple generations of family members, for example. That can certainly take its toll on people.

For some that means ‘quarantine fatigue‘. You’ve been super adherent to public health recommendations, but this has taken an emotional toll on you? I get it. And public health experts like Dr. Julia Marcus say that ‘An abstinence-only approach to #COVID19 will have unintended consequences.’
What does that mean? It means that you can continue to live life while reducing harm for COVID-19 infection and transmission. How?

For socializing, it means you need to consider what Dr. Bill Miller calls Time/Space/People/Place:

This video suggests you keep the following in mind:
⏱️Time
📏Space
👥People
🌳Place
⏱️Spending less time together is better than spending longer periods of time together. Helps decrease the amount of time you may be exposed to someone who is sick or presymtomatic/asymptomatic.
📏Space. Keep 6 feet of distance between you and others at all time, indoors and outdoors. If indoors, wear a mask. Wear a mask outdoors if you can’t ensure 6 feet of distance between you and others.
👥People. Who are the people you are around? Have they also been good about social distancing? If so, it’s safe to be around them for a short period of time, outdoors, while keeping 6′ between you and others. If you have been social distancing and the other people have been social butterflies, you may want to wait a bit longer to hang out with those people. Monogamy works well here. Seeing multiple groups of people who have been social distancing increases your risk for infection.

Note: Don’t let people try to convince you they are safe to be around because they ‘think’ they have had covid-19. NYC has the highest seroprevalance to date and even there, more than 80% of the population remains uninfected.
🌳Place. Outdoors is better than indoors. Indoors you have to think about how well ventilated the space is and what surfaces you may touch that will be touched by others. If indoors with people outside your household, consider wearing a mask.

In Alabama, Arizona, and other high risk states, essential outings only and limited person-to-person interactions are best until the local outbreaks get under control.

How do you know how your state is doing? Check out this NPR webpage:

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But in case Time/Space/People/Place isn’t specific enough, consider the guidelines below. In addition to adhering to the recommendations above, consider the following for:

Sports

Swimming

Summer Camp (CDC Guidelines)

Summer Camp (Expert opinion)

Daycare

Summer activities in general

Even advice on how to be physically intimate during the pandemic!

CDC Guidelines for everyday life (a must read)
Remember, we will get through this. Just like people got through the Polio epidemic (another Polio article here) and the 1918 Flu Pandemic. It wasn’t easy back then and it’s not going to be easy today. But knowing you have some things in your control, that science has moved at warp speed to find the source of infection and ways to slow the spread, should be reassuring. So, adhere to public health recommendations and take care of the ones you love. Stay healthy and be well, friends.