Eating Healthy in Times of Illness

By Douglas M. Campbell
Jambar Contributor

Echoes of silence fill local Walmart Supercenters as aisles of picked-over food and empty toilet paper shelves are left behind. 

The local supermarkets, some of the busiest epicenters of human activity, are now mostly empty — all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A few challenges people will face in the coming months are maintaining their immune systems and consuming healthy foods while remaining indoors.

Diana Fagan, a biological sciences professor at Youngstown State University, said there are important things to keep in mind for a healthy diet.

Vitamin A and vitamin C are required for the production of T cells. These cells are important for killing virus-infected cells like coronavirus and cancers,” Fagan said.

Photo by Douglas Campbell/Jambar Contributor

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the T cell is a type of white blood cell that acts to control immune reactions and creates cytotoxic T cells. 

“In addition, they regulate other parts of the immune response needed for defense against viruses and bacteria,” Fagan said.

Foods containing vitamins A and C include carrots, broccoli, eggs, oranges and more.

Zara Rowlands, a human ecology professor at YSU, said there are ways to ensure healthy food storage indoors.

“Food safety is crucial at this time. Make sure to store foods properly, don’t overcrowd the refrigerator and cook foods to well-done temperatures,” Rowlands said.

She also recommends planning out future meals through ready-made materials available at stores or at home. 

“I would advise buying some canned or frozen ready-to-eat foods, or make a big batch of stew or chili and portion it out into containers for the freezer,” Rowlands said.

Michael Butcher, a biological sciences professor at YSU, said there are things to avoid and embrace to maintain a healthy immune system.

“There are three ‘S’s’ people should look at when trying to maintain their immune system: stress, sleep and sugar,” Butcher said.

According to Harvard Health Publishing’s website, the overconsumption of added sugars can lead to raised blood pressure, chronic inflammation and possibly heart disease. 

Photo by Douglas Campbell/Jambar Contributor

“It is the one nutrient that people struggle with the most. Amidst the initial panic, I went out to the market and saw a mass amount of sugar and processed foods in everyone’s carts,” Butcher said.

He said nutrients people should focus on are found in lean proteins. Since they take a long time to digest, they are nutrient dense and provide needed vitamins.

“A mineral that people overlook are foods with zinc. They can often be found in shellfish, but eggs can also provide that vitamin needed,” Butcher said.

Rowlands said these lessons are important not only during this health crisis but also moving forward.

“Good food choices, eating patterns and regular physical activity are crucial to not only surviving this pandemic but coming through the extended economic recovery period and the new normal that will face us,” Rowlands said.

More information on COVID-19 and healthy eating are available at cdc.gov.

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