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Safeguard Against the COVID-19 Virus with Whole Foods

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Turn to whole foods and plant-based diets, rich in fiber, to safeguard against the COVID-19 virus

In recent months many of us have spent a lot of energy focusing on preventing exposure to the Coronavirus, yet the challenge for seniors has been even greater. We continue to stay home, remain socially distant and sanitize our surrounding as we wait for resolution to the pandemic. In Continued Care Retirement Communities, we continue to focus on the many ways one can leverage the health benefits of food to arm oneself against this invisible virus.

Following are some thoughts and ideas for seniors to consider as they go about living their lives in this “new normal.” As it turns out, food choice does matter, now more than ever. All of us, especially seniors, can choose wholesome fresh foods that nourish our bodies and help to fend off diseases of all kinds – including the COVID-19 virus.

It is common knowledge that as we grow older our immune system naturally weakens a bit.  With advancing age, the immune system becomes slower to produce new cells and antibodies that destroy viruses, bacteria and other harmful pathogens. Therefore, strengthening one’s immune system can increase the chances that your body will be more successful at fighting the virus, if you are exposed.

Here’s why this is true. Our immune system, in large, is housed in our gut. It’s known as our microbiome, our good gut bacteria, and this plays an essential role in immune response and maintaining overall health. If we keep our gut healthy, we can increase the chances that our immune system will be stronger and help us fight illness. What we eat feeds our microbiome and can either strengthen it or weaken it.

The best way for seniors (and anyone for that matter) to strengthen their microbiome is by eating a whole food, plant-focused diet, rich in fiber.

- Staci Kidder, RDN Director of Wellness and Nutrition for Thomas Cuisine

The Best Way to Strengthen the Microbiome

The best way for seniors (and anyone for that matter) to strengthen their microbiome is by eating a whole food, plant-focused diet, rich in fiber. A diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, legumes, as well as some lean meat or fish is your best defense. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha and kimchi can all benefit the microbiome, too. Avoiding sweets, sugary drinks, artificial sweeteners and alcohol provides even more support.

Some retirement communities focus on the specific nutritional needs of older adults and offer a variety of foods that strengthen the microbiome with necessary nutrients.  There are also restaurants that serve fiber-rich food options that also support immune health. If you’re eating most meals at home and self-isolation is keeping you from getting fresh produce; frozen vegetables, fruit, and berries are healthy options and may keep longer. Canned versions of these foods are also options, but don’t always carry the fiber and vitamins that are found in the fresh or frozen varieties.

While stockpiling toilet paper and sanitizers are important, it’s equally important that we focus on naturally supporting our immune system and microbiome. If we put equal effort into focusing on our immune system as we do at maintaining healthy surroundings, we stand a better chance at staying healthy. Another little tip – getting enough sleep and staying active will also help your immune system stay healthier, too!