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Simple health tips for not-so simple times

Medical & health articles 25 Mar 2020
Green spinach greens veg holding hands

COVID-19 has changed the way many of us live day-to-day. But there are many simple things we can do to help keep ourselves well during these strange times, says Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella.

Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella

In the wake of COVID-19, the world may feel like it’s been turned on its head. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and worried about your health and wellbeing, and that of your family and friends.

That’s why it’s good to know that there are some easy measures you can take to help look after yourself and, in turn, keep you better able to look after the people you care about. Here are some simple tips and recipes.

African mum with daughter meditating

Minimise stress.

The current health climate has increased stress levels for many people. And stress can negatively impact the immune system. So, if you can, take some time out. Stop. Meditate. Have calming herbal teas (see my recipe for sleep tea below). If you can’t take time out, don’t try to do it all; prioritise what’s important to reduce your to-do list. Our simple weekly activity diary may help you to do so.

Midlife woman dumbells in park smiling exercise

Maintain physical activity

If possible, and accessible, try ‘green’ exercise, by taking a walk in non-crowded parklands. Drink in that fresh air. At home, take the opportunity to have some fun. Put the music on and dance.

Woman sleeping nothing better than a lie in

Get enough sleep.

A good night’s sleep really is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. Try my ‘sleep tea’ recipe.

Squeezing lemon on salad

Eat wholefoods.

Where possible, make wholefoods number-one in your diet; fresh colourful fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, seeds and nuts. Specifically, focus on:

  • Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits. And don’t just eat their flesh; use the peel in your teas and zest on your salads. Lemons were carried on long ship journeys from the late 18th century to prevent sailors from dying of scurvy (a wasting disease that occurs due to vitamin C deficiency). Berries, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, broccoli, sprouts and capsicum – red, yellow and green – are also all sources of vitamin C.
  • Foods rich in vitamin A and beta carotene. Think orange vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots and pumpkin. Spinach is rich in it, too. Dried apricots and dried mango are also reasonable sources and handy to have if you need to self-isolate. Liver is the richest source, but too much can cause vitamin A toxicity. For those who like it, paté (which is made from liver) in small quantities is a good option.
  • Zinc. The best dietary source is oysters. Canned smoked oysters may be a good food to have on hand if you have to self-isolate. Otherwise, lean meats, yoghurt and seeds and nuts. Seeds and nuts help to provide some protein, essential fats and help us feel full. Read more on the benefits of seedsand nuts.
  • Culinary herbs, especially garlic and onions. If tolerated, choose recipes with raw garlic, such as pestosand hummus. Also, warming spices such as ginger. Thyme is a herb that traditionally is used to treat lung disorders, so use fresh thyme as a tea with some honey, or use in cooking, such as my one-pot chicken and greens recipe.
  • Using fresh herbs as vegetables. If you are not growing them, see if you can get some small pots of established herbs such as basil and mint, that you can harvest leaves from to add flavour to your meals.
  • Shiitake mushrooms. Thesecontain polysaccharides called beta-glucans, which appear to have health benefits, including improving the immune system. You might like to try my shiitake and miso noodle soup recipe.

In times like this, it’s good to remember some common-sense strategies and foods that can help to keep us well nourished, in body and mind, all year round – not just during times of stress.

So, look after yourselves, and each other.

Visit our Healthy living section to learn more about eating and living well, and feeling good.

Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella

Simple, nutritious, delicious!

Join Jean Hailes naturopath and herbalist Sandra Villella in the Jean Hailes Kitchen for more recipes.

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