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Dubai: By far the biggest contributors to chronic illnesses is bad nutrition. Bad nutrition includes lots of sugar, unnatural ingredients that are found in sodas and gummy bears, canned processed foods and white flour just to name a few of the top culprits.

In order to build up your immunity against potentially getting very sick during the coronavirus pandemic, you have to clean your diet up as soon as possible and eat as much nutritious food as you can. Especially with Ramadan coming up, when immunity tends to drop a bit due to lack of food, sleep and water, we need to use the next 10 days to build up our nutritional roster and eat well. 

The Ministry of Health and Prevention tweeted on Tuesday morning, advice on what UAE residents should be eating. Avocados, nuts, fish, whole grains, eggs. And what we should be avoiding. Lots of salt, ghee and processed meats.

Let’s take a quick crash course in nutrition to give you some clear basics on what you should eat during these tumultuous times.

My first go to when it comes to nutrition, especially when the focus is on battling diseases, is going straight to the advice of Dr Mark Hyman, the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Centre for Functional Medicine. In his book “What the Heck Should I Eat” he talks about the idea that eating the right food can saves us.

Step 1: Think of nutrition not calories

You need to think about the nutrition. If you have a glass of soda vs. the same amount of calories of broccoli, what both do in your body are completely different. The canned soda is going to shrink your brain, spike your insulin and if you drink it continuously, it will make your body store fat, in addition to the fact that you are adding spoonful’s of sugar into your diet. The broccoli is a powerful antioxidant, it feeds your cells, unlike the soda.

Think about feeding your cells in a nutritional sense. 

Step 2: Stop eating sugar

Dr. Marilyn Glenville PhD, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists, specialising in women’s health, gave me the low down about sugar.

Sugar is so devoid of any nutrients that your body has to use the essential nutrients stored in your system to digest the sugar. So, not only are you getting absolutely no vital vitamins and minerals from the sugar, but your body is also losing valuable nutrients just by eating it.

When eating sugar, there is a rapid rise in your blood sugar level (blood glucose). Inevitably, your body responds by producing more insulin from the pancreas to deal with the high level of blood sugar.

The higher your blood sugar shoots up, the lower it crashes down soon after. At the drop, your body responds in two ways: first, it will send you off for a quick sugar fix (like a bar of chocolate) as an attempt to satisfy your cravings and in order to lift your blood sugar back up. Simultaneously, it releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol from your adrenal glands and release your own sugar stores to try to correct the low level.

As a result, you end up on a perpetual roller coaster of highs and lows that affects your mood, makes you feel more anxious, tense and irritable because of the stress hormones that are being released, and can further result in weight gain, especially in the middle region of your body.

Step 3: Cut down on grains

For many years, we have been told by experts to eat lots of grains. In the infamous 1992 Food Pyramid, we were told to eat 6 to 11 servings of bread rice, cereal, and pasta every day! And we listened… and it turned America into the “Fat Nation” with 70 per cent of the population now overweight.

As Dr Hyman discusses in his book “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?” whole grains can be a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. While they taste pretty good, the high amounts we eat, contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. And most of the grains we eat, even whole wheat, are turned into flour products which have a higher glycaemic index than table sugar sometimes. In general, we need to recognize grains for what they are—an occasional treat, not a staple.

Step 4: Eat more vegetables than fruits

Sure fruits have a lot of nutritional value, but they also tend to have more sugar, in the form of fructose, than anything else. So limit your fruit to about 2 servings a day. A serving of fruit is equivalent to: 1 medium apple, orange or pear, or two small apricots or kiwi. And since berries generally have a lower sugar content, you can go for a 1 cup of berries.

What you should be doing is a lot more veggies. You should be doing 4 servings and have the option of going more on the less starchy vegetables like all leafy greens, eggplant, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, celery and peppers.

So all in all:

• We should all be eating foods that are low in starch and sugar. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

• We should be eating a plant rich diet. 70 per cent of the plate should be plant food. Good quality veggies that aren’t that starchy. Two serving of fruits and four to seven servings of vegetables. Do not overdo it on the fruit, there is a lot of sugar in fruit.

• Eat good fats: Salmon, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil.

• If you need animal products, ideally, you should be eating humanely raised animal products and fish that’s sustainably harvested.

• Non-gluten grains are the best: Black rice, quinoa, buckwheat.

• Dairy, you should ideally eat less of. Dairy tends to cause inflammation in our bodies, so the best case scenario would be opting for oat milk, almond milk or coconut milk.

Look at your nutritional deficiency. You need a nutrient dense diet. Think about the density of nutrition in food before you buy it and eat it.

You need to eat the kind of foods that really nourish your cells. This gives you control to a certain extent over how long you’re going to live. You can avoid coronavirus, autoimmune conditions, heart conditions, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and so much more if you just pay attention to your eating.

Vitamin D, Omega 3 fats, Magnesium, Iron, and Zinc. These nutrients are critical to all the functions in your body. Immune system, brain function and gut hormones all require these. Wheat, fructose corn syrup, and soy have no nutrients in them. The people who eat the most of these are the sickest.