Be Combat-Ready With a Mediterranean Diet
COVID-19 cases are down in Zimbabwe, and the re-start button has been pressed. For now, the wily and efficient Delta variant is being held at bay, and we can return to the gym, visit a spa, and enjoy an early supper at the restaurant down the road. Movie night is still on hold, but with the re-opening of cinemas, why not attend a matinee of Paw Patrol, or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings?
The new found freedom brings relief to the economy, the hospitality industry and to many others, but until more people are open to receiving shots, a pandemic of the unvaccinated remains a threat. So even if you’ve received both your jabs, continue wearing a mask when visiting public places, and maintain a hand washing routine.
Another way to avoid becoming a statistic on the files of the Ministry of Health and Child Care is to amp up your immune system, that complex network of cells, tissues and organs that helps the body fight against diseases and viruses. Lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep, reducing stress levels and engaging in moderate exercise can help achieve this.
Inadequate or poor quality sleep can make you susceptible to illness. TV addicts should try and reduce screen time, and aim for at least seven hours sleep a night. Instead of snacking, drinking or smoking and bingeing on TV in the evenings, blow off steam with some stretches, lunges and low impact moves, without driving up your adrenaline. If all goes well, the resulting surge of endorphins should relieve stress symptoms, and help you sleep like a baby.
Of primary importance, and key to a strong immune system, is a healthy diet. So for your body to be combat-ready while the virus rages, you may need to give up some of your favourite foods. The alternative snacks to carbonated soft drinks, doughnuts, sausage rolls and Mars bars don’t have immediate appeal. While I’ve never craved carrot sticks, apples or healthy granola bars, the prospect of falling prey to COVID, whether short or long, has persuaded me to think otherwise, and also to contemplate the much-vaunted Mediterranean diet.
While the Zimbabwean psyche urges us to eat beef prepared in many different and delicious ways, a Mediterranean-style diet has the potential to boost the immune system, thereby prolonging life expectancy. Generally speaking, this diet is high in fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains, fish and unsaturated fats such as olive oil (extra virgin olive oil, known as EVOO is best). Poultry, eggs and cheese can be eaten in moderation, while red meat should make only a rare appearance on the dinner table. Rich in fibre, the Mediterranean diet digests slowly, preventing swings in blood sugar and helping you maintain a healthy weight. Olive oil, a key feature of the diet, keeps blood vessels healthy, and maintains good circulation throughout the body.
Researchers in nutrition at the University of Athens claim that men who include olive oil in their diet can reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction; another benefit, discovered by Prof Fernando Azpiroz, a specialist in gastrointestinal research in Barcelona, shows how the incidence of flatulence can be reduced by adopting a Mediterranean diet.
Many highly nutritious traditional Zimbabwean foods such as mhunga, zviyo and mapfunde, can also assist in creating a healthy immune system. Sadza made from these types of millet is popular in the rural areas, whereas city dwellers prefer white sadza, made from ground maize meal. When hunger pangs strike, oven-baked mbambaira chips will satisfy, while helping to reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases .
Eating a healthy diet and having a strong immune system may have protected you thus far, but as the rate of infections slows, and restrictions are being eased, re-entering society and going back to work may prove difficult. To cope with anxiety after lockdown, take small steps, with a new challenge every day, until you can pick up your social life again. If you’re looking for a change of scene, and are into sci/fi and fantasy, a trip to the movies to engage with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings might be just the ticket. A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff
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