IRVINE, Calif.—As Orange County braces for a winter shadowed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one expert says the remedy could be found in a rainbow.
“A mostly plant-based diet, including a rainbow of color from fruits and vegetables is a good start,” Jody Margolis, a registered dietitian at University of California–Irvine’s Student Health Center, said in a press release.
“The variety of color provides different phytonutrients—chemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits—that are important to keeping us healthy.”
Her dietary advice comes as California battles an increase in COVID-19 cases. The spike prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to restrict the activities of about 95 percent of Californians. In Orange County, movie theaters and indoor gyms have closed. Restaurants were forced to shut indoor dining rooms but can continue to accommodate take-out orders and patio patrons.
As of Nov. 22, there were 69,694 COVID-19 cases in Orange County; the figure includes 1,554 deaths. An uptick in cases comes as the winter flu season is set to take hold.
A Dietary Defense
Margolis said social distancing and masks are good measures to help combat the spread, but the public can also safeguard itself from infection through a healthy diet. Cases have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and hypertension—all ailments that often stem from poor meal choices.
“There are health disparities and social justice issues that contribute to a poor diet, unhealthy weight, and increased risk of developing chronic conditions that may raise one’s risk for a poor outcome related to COVID-19,” Margolis said.
Conversely, studies have proven that a healthy diet helps equip the body with nutrients it needs to bolster the immune system and fight diseases.
You don’t have to be a Michelin-caliber chef to whip up a healthy meal, Margolis said. Eating healthy can be as simple as mixing fresh greens with dried cranberries, fresh fruit, onions, and vinaigrette, resulting in a tasty seasonal salad.
Other suggested options include microwaved sweet potato, mashed cauliflower, roasted vegetables, and fresh fruits. Margolis advised pairing plant-based foods with protein-rich choices such as eggs, fish, lentils, tofu, or poultry.
Dining on a Budget
Eating well can be expensive, but the University of California–Irvine’s FRESH Basic Needs Hub exists to help students make healthy choices. It offers various food assistance services, including a fully-stocked pantry, emergency swipe meals, and more.
The university’s Farm-to-FRESH program provides vouchers for a local farm’s drive-thru production season.
Margolis said the general public can save money by buying frozen fruits and vegetables rather than fresh, and opting for canned proteins and frozen fish.