What should you eat during a pandemic? This question seems to come up a lot these days, and rightly so. The focus on strengthening your immunity and steadying your mood is vital when thinking about what to eat during a pandemic. Implementing simple ways to build your body’s defenses to reinforce its protective powers is paramount for when (and if!) illness arises, as is increasing feel-good hormones!
With a spirit of exploration and attention to your day, you can evoke a sense of novelty that can positively transform pandemic periods into generating more purpose-filled experiences. Here’s how!
Cultivate an Inner Ecosystem of Excellence
High-quality, whole foods are the best choices to eat for overall health and for their richness in beneficial compounds such as micronutrients. If you are reading this, you are probably aware that the modern diet is grossly deficient in micronutrients due to the lack of consumption of a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. So, as opposed to preaching to the choir, let’s rejoice together by discovering how to improve our moods. Your healthy food choices will build an inner ecosystem of excellence!
By eating with intention, “You will notice how much you start to feel mood-wise, and you’ll probably start to sleep better and have fewer cravings,” according to clinical nutritionist Trudy Scott in her book The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution. It can be that simple when the world these days feels so complicated.
Begin a practice of paying attention to how you feel when you eat. By adding new foods into your regimen, you’re not only getting nutritional variety but also building your immunity. Venturing into new food territory is a golden combo for sheltering in place to its fullest!
Improve Your Mood with Healthy Eating
Sure, getting takeout is the quick-and-easy option during times like these. But consider how much more satisfying a home-cooked, healthy meal can be. For one, a home-cooked meal isn't full of processed foods or added sugar. Additionally, a healthy diet is the key to keeping your mind and body in good shape in serious times like these.
By selecting high-quality foods, you feed your gut (i.e., the second brain) the foods it needs to create feel-good neurotransmitters. This includes 90 percent of the serotonin (i.e., the happy hormone) and 50 percent of the dopamine (i.e., the pleasure and reward center) made in your body, according to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, author of the book Fiber Fueled. The trillions of microbes that constitute your gut embark on a feeding frenzy when they are fed what they want most.
So, what’s that you ask? Plant foods and fiber! When microbes are well-fed, a cascade of reactions is set in motion within your body, producing neurotransmitters and hormones, and creating vitamins, among other things. This research is mood-altering and magically satisfying while sheltering in place.
Also, since 70 percent of your immune system resides in the gut, to expel and kill foreign invaders, according to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, in his book Fiber Fueled, healthy food becomes the tool for improving both your mood and immunity.
Experience Pleasure Through Grounding Practices
Experiencing a sense of novelty during these abnormal times can draw your attention. Humans are drawn to novelty, according to Dr. Amit Sood, author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living.
What are the ways you can bring some newness into your ordinary daily activities? In addition to getting plenty of sleep and regular exercise, the following five practices will increase the pleasure factor of your everyday life.
1. Spend Time in Nature
In the book, Nature Fix, by Florence Williams, researchers show that nature lowers stress and boosts mental health based on the biophilia response—meaning, you have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Since you’re not able to connect in ways you’re used to right now with other humans, it’s a great time to get outside amongst the majestic trees.
2. Eat the Rainbow
(And I don’t mean Skittles here!) Diversify your fruit and veggie intake with a wide range of colors. Challenge yourself to try a new vegetable each week. You will flush your body with rich nutrients. These positive eating habits will support your mood and immunity while activating a feeling of novelty.
3. Savor Your Food
Eat with awareness by giving your undivided attention to the first three bites of your food. Notice the taste, temperature, and textures of your meal. Rejoice in it!
4. Develop a Deep-Breathing Practice
Try this: Breath deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Soften your belly, breathe in, and allow the exchange of oxygen to occur as you relax and deepen your breath. Try this approach for five to ten minutes. Say to yourself “breathing in” as you breathe in, and “breathing out,” as you breathe out.
5. Grow a Garden (or an Herb)
Grow something! There are many reasons to grow your food these days. Gardening is like magic when you think about it. Fresh food is power. It’s a great time to take matters into your own hands and start something! In an increasingly stressful time, growing a garden offers a vital source of comfort and an opportunity for mental, physical, and spiritual renewal.
If gardening isn't your favorite or you don't feel comfortable going grocery shopping for fresh food during the pandemic, don't stress! There are so many frozen veggies and fruits available to have on hand. You can also freeze meat so that you have it readily available. Or, look into grocery delivery to have groceries delivered right to your doorstep. There are so many ways to make sure you have enough food to make healthy meals during a pandemic.
Pandemic days can create a wide range of emotions, and stress impacts your health in ways that can be depleting. It’s important to honor and recognize these feelings while being gentle on yourself through these unknown and unsettling times. By genuinely caring for yourself through healthy eating, you will generate a more vital and resilient you, which will cultivate a skilled navigator through times of uncertainty now and moving forward.
Interested in learning how to become healthier and stronger? Want to choose the best foods, exercises, and lifestyle practices to benefit your unique mind-body type? Sign up for our introductory online course with Deepak Chopra, Discovering Ayurveda, and you’ll discover how to incorporate ancient healing wisdom into your daily life. Learn More.