The recent outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus has, understandably, caused widespread worry and anxiety. When this happens people commonly turn to comfort food. But sugary, fatty treats are the worst things you can eat if you want to keep your body, brain and immune system in good shape during this difficult time.

With that in mind, we’ve teamed up with GP Dr Clare Bailey to help you eat mindfully and reduce stress. Here’s how keep your eating clean during lockdown.

LOCKDOWN LOWDOWN

Dr Bailey says: “research now shows that our diet can also play a key role in managing stress and sleeplessness. The link lies in our gut; two to three kgs of microbes live in the digestive system, and amongst other things they produce neurotransmitters. 

These chemicals convey messages from the gut, through the nervous system to the brain – impacting our mood and anxiety levels.  80% of our serotonin (our happy hormone) is produced in the gut – so the healthier the gut the more emotionally resilient we are.” 

And the better we’re feeling, the easier it is to sleep, too. So, it’s vital to adopt a holistic approach to your health, creating a positive cycle of eating better, sleeping better and reducing stress. Combine these and you’ll also improve your body’s ability to fight infection.

THINK MEDITERRANEAN

Eating a low-carbohydrate ‘Mediterranean’ diet rich in different coloured fruits and vegetables will give you the best chance of getting the wide variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients your body needs. 

The high fibre content of such a diet (provided by wholewheat pasta and wholegrain bread, and plenty of beans and pulses) is a great way to boost your microbiome, the trillions of microbes that live in your large intestine and which are so important for your health. 

Olive oil, common within the Mediterranean diet, helps reduce gut inflammation. Eat more of it via salad dressings (a 3:1 ratio with lemon juice is great) or drizzled over some cooked vegetables just makes all those veg, beans and lentils taste even better.

EAT FERTILISER FOODS

It’s possible to correlate a healthy diet with a healthy mind. Prebiotic foods form the foundation of a psychobiotic diet – a vegetable and fibre rich one that’s good for your brain, keeping your mood up and anxiety levels at bay. 

These foods act as the ‘fertiliser’ for the good bacteria and encourage them to proliferate, in time countering the effects of more harmful bacteria. Leeks, onions and garlic are all prebiotics. Rejoice!

FERMENT TO STRENGTHEN

Fermented foods like kefir, miso paste, kombucha and sauerkraut all help strengthen the good bacteria in the gut, while fruit, vegetables and whole foods rich in fibre feed the gut microbiome and allow it to thrive. Time to stock up on some kimchi, we think.

GROW THE GOOD BACTERIA

If prebiotics act like fertiliser for the gut, probiotics are the seeds – they help the healthy growth of ‘good bacteria’.  You can find probiotics in fermented foods like live yogurt, as well as kimchi and sauerkraut. With more time on your hands currently, at home and with projects on the mind, why not get into fermenting, curing and pickling?

If you take a probiotic supplement, make sure it is clinically proven.

CUT DOWN ON THE SWEET STUFF

It’s also important to try and avoid (or at least cut down) on processed foods like takeaways, as tempting as they may be during self-isolation, as these destroy the active healthy bacteria in the digestive system. If you are to order in, make sure it’s a healthy takeaway option.

Treat your microbiome with care; feed it well and it will look after you. Eating loads of sugary or processed foods, on the other hand, will just reinforce the “bad” microbes that also live down there. 

Try one of these microbiome friendly non-fasting recipes from The Fast 800 –  www.thefast800.com