By Dina Eliash Robinson
Update: We wrote this in 2020. Sorry folks! We’re not out of the woods yet! In fact, the pandemic has turned into an endemic run of the virus — just like the flu. Vaccines have kept many people out hospitals but good nutrition, as the story below indicates, is still the best protector.
It is incomprehensible and certainly unforgivable that months after the outbreak of this pandemic, still not a word is mentioned by anyone in the news media or by healthcare industry professionals that the best health-protective remedies available to us during these difficult times—more effective than masks and self-isolation—are the foods that have been used by generations to build powerful immune systems and fight bacteria and viruses. For centuries, foods were converted to home remedies that successfully prevented illnesses, lightened their symptoms, shortened their course, and in many instances even cured them.
By all means we should continue social distancing, frequent hand washing, wearing masks and other self-protective practices advised by Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public health experts. But while we are waiting for epidemiologists to decode the beastly complicated workings of COVID-19 and come up with treatments and a vaccine, we’d be stupid not to reach for nature’s first line of defense against illness: good nutrition—i.e. consisting of organically produced foods—and healthy lifestyles.
It is well known that—except for genetic bad luck and toxic environments—poor diet and neglectful or self-destructive habits are leading causes of the underlying medical conditions (i.e. diabetes, heart disease, cancer, addiction) which have been found to render people vulnerable to more acute forms of COVID-19 infections and less able to survive them. That sad fact is, unfortunately, proven by the disproportionately high percentage of fatalities from this virus among the nation’s poor, who live in “food desert” neighborhoods that lack convenient access to affordable fresh produce and other healthy nutrition, while being seduced by much too accessible junk food outlets.
Although no one expects overworked healthcare providers to solve such social problems in the midst of a pandemic, it would be helpful if they learned and educated everyone within their reach about the importance of adopting healthy and nutritious diets and avoiding fast foods containing processed ingredients and toxic agricultural chemicals.
Instead, we are faced with the strange phenomenon of newly minted physicians continuing to recite the Hippocratic Oath at their medical school graduations, yet largely ignoring the advice dispensed more than 2000 years ago by old Hippocrates, the ancient Greek father of modern medicine, to “Make food thy medicine”—which has made him a frequently quoted rock star in recent years.
First Priority: Switch To Organic Foods To Build A Powerful Immune System
Since the introduction after World War II of toxic agricultural products—such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and especially Monsanto’s cancer-causing, Roundup-aided, genetically modified (GMO) and engineered (GE) ‘Frankenstein’ produce, seafood and livestock—there has been an enormous increase in chronic illnesses, sadly including an explosion of childhood cancers.
Fortunately, thanks to the often mocked West Coast ‘health nuts’ led by well-informed nutritionists, naturopaths and other holistic health practitioners, there has also been a growing awareness among consumers that the damage done to public health can be reversed by eliminating conventionally grown and processed foods and adopting an all- (or at least, mostly) organic diet—which, research clearly shows, gives even a depleted immune system a chance to recover and ramp up to full power.
Caveat: Choose foods grown and produced by certified organic farms known to employ dedicated workers, treat their livestock humanely and cultivate their soil with natural, toxin-free nutrients. It is your responsibility as consumers to read labels and packages carefully and buy only fruits and vegetables produced by reliable organic farms—most of which are located in the USA and Mexico, some in Canada and a few in Western Europe.
By all means, however, avoid buying even ‘organic’-marked foods imported from China and other Asian countries where the ‘organic’ designation means little or nothing, due to both their highly polluted soil, air and water and to unsafe farming practices.
(While this may seem a bit extreme, some of us also avoid buying organic produce imported from Chile, Argentina and other distant, large ‘carbon footprints’ using polluting fossil fuels for their long distance transportation.)
- Seafood: An easy way to avoid obstacles to building a powerful immune system, is to research sources, query fishmongers and do your best to buy Wild Caught (not just ‘wild’ and certainly not ‘farm raised’) fish and other seafood, harvested from the cleanest waters and farthest from polluted shores as possible. It is also important to avoid tuna and other big fish that accumulate high levels of mercury in their tissues, built up by eating other creatures. Preferred are sardines, considered ‘super-food’ because of their high content of calcium, Omega-3 and other nutrients (but only when canned whole, with their skin and bones intact) and minimal traces of mercury. Also recommended immune-system boosters with safely low mercury content, include herring, salmon and other small and midsize fish, as well as deep sea scallops. (See our recipe for delicious salmon and sardines salad, with which we have learned to substitute the ubiquitous tuna salad: http://www.freerangeclub.com/salads/salmon-sardines-salad-mock-tuna-salad/.)
- Meat: Since the Mad-Cow epidemic has eroded much of the trust in the safety of even pasture-fed and organic cattle, free-range New Zealand lamb meat has gained limited popularity as both a tasty substitute and immunity-building source of red meat.
- Dairy: Because cow dairy has been found to cause severe allergies in children and high cholesterol in adults with cardiovascular problems, goat dairy—once an exclusively French delicacy—has, in recent years, gained enormous popularity in the US, especially among the foodie and healthy lifestyle populations. Goat dairy has high nutritional value, enzymes that make it easy to digest, as well as absorb and assimilate calcium, is low in fat and artery-clogging cholesterol and, consumed in moderation, it helps boost the immune system.
Penny-Wise And Dollar Foolish
While some organic foods can cost a few cents more than their conventionally produced counterparts, sooner or later far more than the pennies saved end up being spent on doctors’ appointments, prescription drugs and often on long-term treatments for chronic conditions caused by the toxic chemicals, hormones and antibiotics used in factory farming.
Opting for cheaper, non-organic foods also tends to overburden the liver and kidneys, which are essential to the proper function of other organs and can trigger a domino effect of failures in the latter. What’s more, since the skin is both our largest and ‘last resort’ organ, a clogged liver and kidneys is often the cause of acne, eczema and other difficult conditions.
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute of Responsible Technology, uses his vast knowledge and expertise in motivating people to experience the environmental and personal health benefits and affordability of eating organic foods. His movie, Secret Ingredients, documents the astounding recovery of several families from such chronic diseases as autism, life-threatening allergies, asthma, depression and digestive difficulties, by completely avoiding GMO products sprayed with toxic Roundup, as well as other conventionally grown foods, and switching to all-organic diets. Smith also dispenses information about the environmental bonanza of organic farming—which includes protecting the soil from erosion, preventing its depletion of nutrients caused by chemicals that also kill helpful and even essential insects, helping to increase biodiversity and production, protecting water sources from contaminants, capturing and sequestering carbon that would otherwise pollute the air, and growing more nutritious feed and healthier conditions for livestock.
Smith’s gripping documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds-v-HsdMBs&t=3162s SecretIngredients follows children and adults as they emerge from devastating illnesses with which they had been struggling for years, to complete recovery and the prospect of healthy futures, by adopting a nutritious organic lifestyle.
Double Duty Foods Build Stronger Immune Systems
While Also Arming The Body With Highly Effective Bacteria- And Virus-Fighters
- Garlic: Eaten fresh and raw is a champion virus-fighter. A midsize clove, peeled, chopped and sprinkled onto a spread of avocado, egg salad or goat butter with a dash of Himalayan pink salt (or a similar combo) on a slice of toasted organic bread or cracker, is a blissful gourmet treat for savory foods lovers. It provides a spicy kick for a breakfast or mid-day treat and when it’s on the menu two or three times a week, it scares viruses away while also boosting the immune system.
- Phytochemicals, the bioactive compounds that make plant foods nutritious, are some of the body’s most effective protectors from dangerous pathogens and the source of the immune system’s building blocks. Since the latter tend to decrease with age, it’s best to replenish by increasing the (yes, organic) fruits and vegetables in one’s diet.
While in general it’s wise to eat only moderate amounts of fruits with high sugar content to prevent weight gain or diabetes, bigger portions of iron-rich dark grapes might be recommended to anemic people diagnosed with iron-poor blood; extra helpings of watermelon to clear overtaxed kidneys of pathogens and
Kiwi fruit is both a virus-fighter and immune-booster thanks to its high content of Vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants such as alpha-Tocopherol and lutein. News flash: As hairy and unappealing as kiwi fruit’s skin appears, it is not only edible, but also packs a load of other vitamins and nutrients.
- Red Beets are a powerhouse of nutritional elements that cleans the liver from backed up toxic environmental and pharmaceutical residues, protect that important organ from cancer and nourish it with such essential immune-boosting and virus-fighting nutrients as folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium and Vitamin C.
Tip for a super-tasty cold summer soup: A one-quart glass jar of organic pure, fresh pressed (not from concentrate) beet juice with organic lemon juice produced by Lakewood, lasts long in the fridge, provides many portions and when mixed with one or two tablespoons of plain goat yogurt, it makes a healthy, tasty, refreshing Borscht.
- Onions—both red (our preference) and yellow—are renowned for their high contents of major immunity-supporting allin and the antioxidant flavonoids anthocyanin and quercetin. The latter is hailed as a powerful anti-cancer, anti-inflammation and anti-virus nutritional compound. Weather eaten raw in salads or sandwiches, sautéed, roasted, baked, or cooked, onions are nutritional health protectors.
- Ginger is perhaps most famous for its salutary effect on digestion, as everyone who found relief from an upset stomach by popping a piece of organic candied ginger root in their mouth or by drinking ginger ale, knows. What fewer people are aware of, however, is that ginger also has other medicinal qualities, such as it being a source of gingerol (a close relative of the active spicy compounds in peppers: capsaicin and piperine and the curcuminoids that make turmeric such a universal health-booster); an effective antioxidant that keeps cells healthy and cancer free, as well as an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial protector against infectious diseases.
Fresh ginger root can be kept in the freezer until ready to use by grating it into cooked dishes, cold smoothies or boiled as ginger tea. Ginger is also sold in powdered, dried and oil forms.
Green Tea, with its 40% polyphenols, an abundance of catechins, the antioxidant quercetin and amino acid L-theanine, is a mighty warrior that supports the immune system and is worth its weight in gold as a virus-fighting, hydrating, healing and nutritional powerhouse. It is known to knock out (or at least to shorten the course of) flu and cold viruses, as well as gastrointestinal infections. Although we’re just guessing, it would not surprise us to hear that drinking 3-4 cups of green tea a day would also help to relieve some of the symptoms and effects of COVID-19. Its moderate caffeine content is eliminated in decaf versions and both can be found in varieties blended with fragrant and tasty herbs, berries, fruits and even flowers.
Cruciferous Vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, have long been recognized as some of the most potent anti-cancer foods. According to many studies that held up and even augmented the 2011 findings published in the scientific journal Cell, cruciferous species that include bok choy, kohlrabi, collard greens, mustard greens and the super-foods Brussels sprouts and broccoli, are treasure-troves of beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and K, lutein, zeaxanthin and folate—all of which, along with sulfur-rich glucosinolates, isothiocyanates and phytochemical anti-cancer warriors, provide the chemical signals necessary for optimum immune systems function.
- Kale—especially the dark green (nearly black) Lacinato kale (colloquially known as ‘dino’ kale) is rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenols that shield the body most effectively from pathogens—especially when cooked.
- Raw Honey—Manuka honey in particular—have been considered throughout history, as well as in modern times, to be a powerful healing agent that fights both viral and bacterial infections. No longer just a folk or home remedy, raw and Manuka honeys are now among the longest scientifically studied and proven antifungal, antioxidant, prebiotic, anti-cancer and phytonutrient-rich foods known to be effective in the treatment of sore throats, coughs, digestive issues—including diarrhea and stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori (H-pilori). They are also highly valued by medical staffs in hospitals for their anti-infection protection and effective treatment of open wounds.
Caveat: The above healing and safely sterile medical-grade properties are only found in raw honey. Commercial-grade, store-bought, processed and pasteurized (high-heat-treated) honey is merely sugar and lacks most healing properties.
- Lemon has powerful anti-viral anti-bacterial and immune-boosting properties—in addition to the use of lemon juice as a weight-loss and digestive aid and liver-cleanser.
- Avocado provides tasty and highly nutritious fats that protect the cardiovascular system, help prevent stroke, diabetes-2, and inflammations (which are among the pre-existing conditions that increase risks in COVID-19 infections). Recognized as one of the super-foods, this remarkable fruit is rich in B-vitamins, potassium, folate, copper, antioxidants, digestive fiber, vitamins K, E and C, as well as nutrients that feed the gut’s essential friendly bacteria and helps support the immune system. What’s more, it helps lower the risk of depression—a very useful quality during these days of self-isolation and social distancing that tends to affect much of the population.
- Herbs are some of the fiercest virus fighters in the foodie arsenal. Among the top warriors are sage, basil, fennel, lemon balm, peppermint, rosemary, chamomile (as hot tea with honey and lemon is not only a powerful anti-virus herb, but also a soothing sleep-aid) and, of course, the above mentioned champion garlic.
• Licorice is used in traditional Chinese medicine, thanks to its many active, virus-fighting ingredients—among them: glycyrrhizin, liquiritigenin and glabridin (apologies for the unpronounceable Latin nomenclature).
- Extra virgin olive oil has similar benefits for body, mind and immune system, due to its abundant store of many of the same nutrients that are found in avocado.
- Probiotics (the source and replenishment of good bacteria in the gut) and Prebiotics (which feed the probiotics) are the indispensable facilitators of gut-health, which in turn, is the body’s most powerful protector against respiratory infections.
(By the way, a healthy gut also feeds a healthy brain and thinking process. See http://www.freerangeclub.com/brain-boosting-foods/brain-foods-healthy-mind-memory-clear-thinking/)
Probiotics–which protect cells from the dangerous E.coli and other bacteria—are abundant in such fermented foods as sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt (preferably goat), kefir, kimchi and miso; while Prebiotics are found in plant foods such as jicama, chicory root, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, leafy greens and kiwi fruit skins. Together, they protect the body from cancer and inflammations and help increase mineral absorption and strengthen the immune system.
- Apple Cider Vinegar is an efficient killer of viruses and bacteria by creating an alkaline environment in the body. A tablespoon or two taken several times a day helps reduce cold and flu symptoms faster than over the counter meds and without the latters’ side effects.
- Berries are beyond any doubt nature’s super-foods—although blueberries have been awarded the top ‘super’ title of them all, due to their pterostilbene content, designated by researchers who analyzed 446 compounds, for their immune-supporting qualities in a 2013 review published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research along with equally impressive amounts of resveratrol, which also landed red grapes in the super-food category.
In 2018, it was corroborated by a 2018 review of berries in general, which concluded that their oversize stores of phytochemicals endowed whole berries with “potent immunity-optimizing properties.”
- Elderberries in particular have been discovered to be the virus-fighting Super-Berry of its species, with its medicinal history going back to ancient Egypt. As a result, an entire shelf of elderberry remedies has been created and sold over the counter in recent years—uses of which have also expanded to include fatigue, nerve pain, inflammation and allergic reactions in addition to colds and flu. Elderberries are sold in health food stores as elixirs, tonics (such as Sambucus) and pills for the natural (i.e. side-effects-free) treatment of viral infections. In several research programs, elderberry supplements have also been found to suppress flu virus replication, greatly reduce upper respiratory symptoms and to stimulate the immune system.
Home remedy tip: The most severe congestion caused by a sinus infection can be cleared almost instantly by inhaling the fumes of freshly grated horseradish—eyes-tearing painful as it may be to do this with head covered by a towel while bending as close to the grated horseradish as one can stand it. Don’t be surprised if after half a minute of inhaling the pungent fumes, the impenetrable clog in your sinuses practically ‘explodes’ and your head clears for the rest of the day. In most cases, this treatment does not even have to be repeated.
- Additional immune-system-boosting and virus-fighting foods include apples, certain mushrooms, vitamin E-rich sunflower seed, cherries (highly effective protectors of the respiratory system), red peppers (which surprisingly, contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits), food-based vitamin D supplements that prevent acute respiratory infections, plant foods such as wheat germ, beans and other legumes, oats, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of zinc, a powerful antioxidant and immune system supporter. Happily, the list goes on, so no one need to feel deprived of favorite foods when putting together a diet aimed at strengthening the immune system, preventing viral infections and improving one’s overall health.
Stay safe and in the pink…
For questions and more information, contact Dina Eliash Robinson by email at [email protected].