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Guest Series: Food’s critical role for staying healthy in a Covid-19 world

 

Q&A with Halima Ferreira: chef, consultant and internationally

renowned expert on plant-based nutrition and culinary medicine

 

How has food safety management been adjusted with Covid-19?

 The food, beverage and hospitality industry are following stringent health and hygiene practices, with the traceability of products being carefully controlled and monitored in real time.

Are there more dangers eating raw food?

As a general rule, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat and milk products should always be handled with care to avoid cross contamination with uncooked foods.

Sushi for example can have bacteria and parasites like Anisakiasis, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. It’s also wise to avoid fish that could be high in mercury, like swordfish and tuna.

Chefs have to be extremely vigilant in the preparation of raw and ready to eat foods. Wearing gloves to prevent cross contamination, maintaining excellent food hygiene and food safety practices can prevent virus transmission through food.

What role does temperature play?

Covid-19 is susceptible to a normal cooking temperature of 70 degrees. Studies have shown the virus can persist on different surfaces depending on a combination of parameters such as temperature, humidity and light. For example in a fridge at 4 degrees Covid can remain viable for up to 72 hours. The virus appears to be stable at low and freezing temperatures.

The idea behind heating food is that it destroys its nutrients and natural enzymes. Enzymes boost digestion and help fight chronic disease. Some fans of a raw food diet believe that cooking makes food toxic, whilst others claim a raw food diet can clear up allergies and boost immunity and memory.

Due to the risk of food poisoning, a raw food diet isn’t recommended for pregnant woman, young children, seniors and people with compromised immune systems, as well as those with chronic medical conditions.

People that choose to eat a raw food diet generally exclude animal products, therefore vitamin supplements are necessary to fill in the gaps in their diet.

What kind of foods should people be eating to boost their immune system?

Nutrition and other lifestyle measures influence immune strength and susceptibility to infectious diseases. What we do know is that diet, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and sleep play a vital role in keeping our immunity strong.

Some of the top foods to boost your immunity are:

Kiwi – is high in vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants.

Garlic – when crushed contains a compound called allicin, known to enhance immune function.

Onions – contain flavonoids anthocyanin, quercetin and alli, which have anticancer, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.

Ginger – is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It also has antimicrobial effects and helps to protect against infectious disease.

Green Tea – may be the most powerful of all teas. It’s known as an immunity warrior. It contains compounds called catechins as well as an antioxidant quercetin and the amino acid L-theanine – all of which support a strong immune system.

Cruciferous vegetables – kale, collard greens, mustard greens, Chinese cabbage,  bok choy, kohlrabi, broccoli and brussel sprouts contain beta-carotene, lutein, folate and vitamins C,E and K.

Prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods – are some of the most important players in our gut health. Probiotics are good bacteria; prebiotics feed the probiotics. Probiotics are abundant in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, yoghurt and kefir. They appear to reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections.

Prebiotics are abundant in whole plant foods. For example garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, onions and leafy greens.

Nutritional yeast  contains beta glucans, known to have powerful infection preventing and immunity-supporting properties.

Berries – are superfoods high in antioxidants like vitamin C which help prevent cell damage and inflammation. Berries also have phytochemicals which help both the digestive and immune systems.

Citrus Fruits – when eaten in their whole form rather are the most effective. Rich in antioxidants like vitamin C they help support your immune system.

Mushrooms – have been used medicinally for thousands of years. There are many different species all offering unique protective health benefits. They contain protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as selenium, choline and vitamin C.

Apples – are a great source of fibre which strengthens your immune system, as well as being a powerful antioxidant.

Sunflower Seeds – are full of vitamin E, known to reduce the risk of inflammation related disease, and protect the body from cell damage.

Red Peppers – have twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits. They also contain vitamin E and beta-carotene.

Supplements – Vitamin D is linked to T-cell function which is an important part of your body’s defense mechanisms.

Zinc – is an essential nutrient for everyone. It’s also a powerful antioxidant and can be found in plant foods like beans, legumes, nutritional yeast, oats and nuts.

Elderberry – is considered one of the world’s most healing plants. The berries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins. They are a natural way to boost immunity especially during cold and flu season.

What are some areas that are now being viewed differently in the industry?

Chefs have now become aware of the dramatic impact on the environment due to wastage and toxic chemicals being used worldwide. The food and beverage industry also has to take responsibility in this new normal by using environmentally friendly disinfectants, which is a must for my clients in health, wellness and spa businesses.’

It’s essential to maintain a safe, professional environment with a sustainable mindset towards chemicals in order to be in harmony with healthy living and treating food and cooking as our medicine.

Sustainability is not negotiable post Covid-19.