“As much as most of us are isolated from each other, I think we are closer than ever before and experiencing truly what it means to be part of the ‘brotherhood of man’. ”
Marie-claire gahel calouche
Lessons we've learned...
There is something special in seeing the world united and focused. Together, we are doing something difficult under the conditions of sacrifice and necessity. Hopefully, what we have learned during this crisis will stay in our memories long after it’s gone:
- Working from home can be as productive as having a desk in the office, offers more flexibility to families and is more environmentally friendly.
- Social media can be more than just aimless content. It can be a tool to connect meaningfully in different and creative ways.
- Think outward rather than inward. Just to get you to introspect on this, look down and write the word ‘ME’ but lift it in a mirror and look up you get ‘WE’. You don’t have to be together to be together. You just need to point your focus beyond yourself and consider the well-being of those outside your immediate circle.
- We need to support our local economy. Now, more than ever, we need to support our communities, local efforts and charities. By taking care of our local economy, we are giving life to our fellow neighbourhood businesses in their journey to impact the world.But none of this is possible without the support of local consumers. Also, e-commerce is another way to support local companies. As a business owner, I can say this period is a challenge, but my solace is knowing I’m not alone in this. Many businesses rely on e-commerce to diversify their revenue and promote their brand.
- Wellness is crucial in the workplace. As a leader, if you don’t like what you see, you have the power to change it! Health is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Employees are the greatest asset of any company. However, many people can’t afford to receive health care services, such as nutrition care by a dietitian since those services are not covered by the RAMQ medical card for those residing in Quebec. Company leaders have a key position in advocating for change and empowering their workforce. By ensuring services that will promote healthier lifestyles, the leaders are paying it forward to their employees and restoring healthy habits to their communities. By disseminating important lifestyle values in the place where we all spend most of our lives, leaders are also influencing the homes and social circles where employees will take them.
I know, the world looks dark when one needs to self-confine. Like everyone else, I have been at home for the past few weeks. As dark as these times may be, I always like to see the bright side of every situation.
For the first time, in a long time, I feel closer to my kids, having more time to spend with them amidst homeschooling and work. I don’t have to struggle to get my angels out the front door in the morning and deal with pre-teen attitude with regards to what they want to wear or the time it takes them to get ready. I don’t have to get my kids to school, fight traffic, or stress that I won’t make it on time in the morning. I don’t have to make school lunches and instead, I enjoy the pleasure of eating with my family breakfast, lunch and supper.
It has also highlighted that basic skills we used to take for granted, such as cooking and strategically buying groceries for the long haul, have been forgotten. Furthermore, concerns over the food supply have awakened a wave of panic buying and hoarding in grocery stores everywhere. If that is not enough, we are confronted by dubious claims and miracles cures. In short, cooking can be simple, our food supply is solid and (spoiler alert!) there are no miracle cures to this illness.
Dilemma 1: SCAMS !
Let me start by making this clear, you cannot ‘boost’ your immune system with supplements or natural products. You can’t prevent COVID-19 by gargling water or eating a fad diet either. Though you can find many websites and web events (but hopefully not live in-person events) that boast having THE answer, there are NO miracle cures. I know, scientific fact is less appealing than science fiction, but real solutions require real science!
It is important to get information from credible sources to ensure that you are safe. A sign that the information you’re getting is flimsy, to say the least, is that they are probably trying to sell you something, like a ticket for a webinar or a supplement. Think about it, would governments purposely keep a medical breakthrough secret and allow markets to crash, businesses to fail, and leave countless people on unemployment as the sick and dead rise around the world.
If the solutions that these ‘do-gooders’ are selling were so credible, then why isn’t the government buying into it and why does their ‘enlightenment’ remain confined to social media as they scream that the world is blind and dumb? Simple. What they are selling is an oversimplified explanation of the immune systems and a false sense of security which is irresponsible in a time of pandemic.
So, can you really ‘boost’ the immune system?
No. Getting back to the question that started this section, let’s understand why you can’t boost your immune system, in addition to what you can do to stay healthy during the pandemic. Currently, there are no government-approved products to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. Any claim of such is false. Please beware of misinformation and certainly please don’t share ‘fake news’.
For advice from the Dietitians of Canada for the general public: https://www.dietitians.ca/News/2020/Advice-for-the-general-public-about-COVID-19
You may also want to check out the new app developed in partnership with Health Canada: https://www.thrive.health/canada-covid19-app
The only way to prevent this illness is through social distancing and washing your hands. Thought diet can’t prevent or cure the illness, you can, however, support your immune system by eating a healthy and balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet.
How does the immune system work?
It is important to remember that the role of the immune system is to defend your body from infectious agents. In the case an infectious agent enters your body; an immune response will rise and fight the infection. An immune function is a complicated cascade of events that happen in response to the presence of foreign antigens. When we speak of immune function, it is truly an immune system comprised of many parts such as white blood cells (such as B and T lymphocytes), antibodies, complement proteins, and interferons.
The assumption that taking a supplement or any other type of wonder-drug will magically activate the immune system or make it better makes no sense scientifically.
Nutrition does, however, play a crucial role in maintaining the immune system. It’s not advisable to choose one specific food over another for the sake of your immune system. Rather, the best advice is to eat a variety of foods to benefits from a broad spectrum of nutrients working in concert with the array of nutrients they provide. Each nutrient plays a different role in modulating immunity therefore, focusing on one nutrient is insufficient to provide the variety of roles they confer in maintaining functional immunity.
Many nutrients such as vitamin A, beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, iron, zinc, and selenium, are involved in maintaining a healthy immune system. Therefore, a healthy balanced diet is best to support immune function.
For an example of a healthy diet, follow this resource from our website: https://www.mcgcnutrition.ca/en/healthy-food-guide/
Too much of a good thing?
Ok, so you are probably thinking ‘if vitamin A, C and all those other nutrients are great, then more is better, right?’ The short answer is ‘no’!
First off, there is the concern of toxicity pertaining to certain nutrients stored by the body: vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin E, iron, selenium and zinc to name a few. This is of greater concern when taking supplements, which is why you should always consult a health professional like a medical doctor, pharmacist or registered dietitian before opting to add them to your regimen.
Another point to consider is the therapeutic value of taking more than the required amount for these nutrients. For instance, the required daily amount (RDA) of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) for adults as of the age of 19 is between 75 to 90 mg per day, with an upper limit of 2000mg, defined as the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects. For reference, one full red bell pepper provides nearly 3x the RDA. Strawberries, kiwis, grapefruits and oranges are other great sources of vitamin C which easily each have nearly 100% the daily requirement in one serving. In other words, your diet an easy, safe and healthy way to get this nutrient and many other nutrients that will work in synergy.
Apart from eating well, what else can you do to encourage a healthy immune function? It is important to promote healthy lifestyle habits. One great thing to do is to make sure you are physically active, aiming for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. However, if you are sick with the COVID-19 and in self-isolation, it’s important to rest, eat regularly (even if your appetite is low), and remember to stay hydrated.
Dilemma 2: Cooking at home, the forgotten basic skill.
The reason I learned to cook was for my love of restaurants. Being a self-proclaimed foodie, I found joy in immersing myself in new meals but didn’t always have the budget to support frequent visits to new restaurants. Learning how to cook gave me the possibility to use new techniques and make the recipes I love. On top of that, cooking at home allows me to make my food healthier and while keeping it delicious. It’s exciting to cook!
Restaurants are a great place to make the acquaintance with a new ornate dish or a foreign style of cuisine. With this, I like to take my experience home to try something new. No need to always sit in a restaurant or buy premade food when you can get creative with the food in your fridge and your pantry. I know that some of you reading this are thinking ‘have you seen my fridge and pantry?’
When I started cooking, I was terrible. Honestly! The 1st time I tried to crush garlic, it jumped in front of me… and I was on a date! Another big reason I learned to cook was parenthood. My daughter would look at me with a squeamish look that would say ‘Mom – better luck next time’.
After many hours watching cooking shows, recipes books, failing recipes and getting adventurous in the kitchen, I developed valuable skills that serve me well. I’m able to keep the budget low, the family healthy, preserve our culinary heritage. Cooking has proven to be invaluable, especially now during the current situation. When someone tells me ‘you’re so talented’ when seeing pull out a lasagna or fresh bread from the oven, honestly, it’s the practice of a skill that anyone can learn.
This is a great time to experiment and fearlessly play with your food! If you’re in need for some inspiration, Dietitians of Canada have a great website that can help you plan your week and make groceries a breeze: https://www.cookspiration.com/menuplanner.aspx
Dilemma 3: Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping is half the work you need to put in for a healthy diet but is unpleasant when you have some shoppers hoarding all the toilet paper, cereal, bread, frozen goods, and many other important staples. Don’t let the pandemic get to your head, please! We are not in a food shortage. Panic buying will only deprive people of basic needs and exhaust grocery store employees.
In fact, stores such as Metro, Loblaws, Empire companies and Walmart have increased wages of their employees who keep shelves stocked during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – and rightfully so! In North America, we have a robust food supply chain and are seldom concerned over shortages. The only reason to buy a little more than usual is to prevent going out to public spaces as much as possible. Even without a pandemic, my grocery basics will easily last me a month!
For more information on the safety of food, follow this resource from the Government of Quebec:
A few tips to get you started:
-Buy fresh vegetables to last you the first two weeks of the month.
-Transition to frozen vegetables for the end of the month.
-Dry or canned lentils and other legumes can last for a very long time and are a great replacement for protein in a meal.
-Chicken and meat last long frozen (then thaw in the fridge) and can be stretched out in mixed meals like a stir fry or a casserole dish.
-Making meals in advance, portioning out into containers and storing in the freezer can make meals a breeze. Simply reheat and enjoy!
-Canned tomatoes, salt-free broths and dry cereals (like pasta) are great staples in a pantry and are very versatile.
-Learn to do zero-waste cooking! When tomatoes or celery look mushy, place in the freezer and use for your next soup or sauce! You can do this with many other vegetables. Don’t throw leftover carrots, or cauliflower, broccoli and kale stems; those can go to the freezer and then a soup pot. I even made a chocolate cake out of dying bananas, tangerines and limes…It was delicious!
One last thing...
We all feel the stress of this pandemic, not only from the isolation and health concerns but also the economic effect. For this reason, please buy local when possible, not only from local grocers but also by supporting other local businesses as well. Rather than automatically buying online from big chain e-commerce resellers, find a local alternative instead.Not sure where to start? If you live in the province of Quebec, Le Panier Bleu is an intitative supported by Gouvenement du Québec to encourage local merchants: https://www.lepanierbleu.ca
If you’re a business, consider reducing your prices during this time to help more people afford your products or services. Lend a hand to those who need it and build relationships with other local brands. Interested in working with me, feel free to reach out! For initiatives that MCGC Inc. is taking, here is the link that will be updated periodically: https://www.mcgcnutrition.ca/en/nutritionist-online-consultation/
We’re looking to do everything we can to support our community! Therefore, we urge you to PAY IT FORWARD and give back. Support food banks like Moisson Montreal by donating non-perishable food or sending a donation: www.moissonmontreal.org
Finally, don’t forget to place a drawing of a rainbow in your window (even if you don’t have kids) and remember that we are all in this together!
Stay safe and stay home!
*For more information on how to protect yourself and your family, here’s a link to COVID-19 self-care guide by the Government of Québec: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/
- Bda.( 2020, March 16), COVID-19 / Coronavirus – Advice for the General Public, Retreived from: www.bda.uk.com/resource/covid-19-corona-virus-advice-for-the-general-public.html.
- Rosenbloom, C. (2020, March 5). Perspective | No, you probably can’t ‘boost’ your immune system to prevent coronavirus. Here’s why. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/immune-boost-coronavirus/2020/03/05/e111554a-5e73-11ea-b014-4fafa866bb81_story.html?fbclid=IwAR1ALhBD2pKgD-j4qLOz-KfjBr1Z3whIgt9rsZgzf9WhapbRSvvJgEpG2ik
- No author cited, (2020, September 22), Harvard Health Publishing, How to boost your immune system, Retreived from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
- Marcos, A., Nova, E. & Montero, A. Changes in the immune system are conditioned by nutrition. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, S66–S69 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601819
- Han, D., Wu, C., You, M. et al. A cascade reaction network mimicking the basic functional steps of adaptive immune response. Nature Chem 7, 835–841 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2325
- Institute of Medicine. 2000. Dietary Reference Intakes: Applications in Dietary Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9956.
- Shmerling, Robert (February, 2020), Harvard Health Publishing, , Be careful where you get your news about coronavirus, Retreived from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/be-careful-where-you-get-your-news-about-coronavirus-2020020118801
- Couto, M. (2020, March 22). Feeling food anxiety? Expert advice on eating your way through a pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/feeling-food-anxiety-expert-advice-on-eating-your-way-through-a-pandemic-1.4863276
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