The English Post

How to feed in the time of Covid19: interview with Gloria Barraco

Written by Veronica Lavenia

Covid19 has changed our way of life, certainly also with future repercussions in the lifestyle which, however, could bring about positive changes if we are all able to grasp the “good” of this difficult historical moment.

In the current emergency phase, it is important not to panic, inquiring through official channels and relying on experts. This also concerns the nutrition sector which, in recent weeks, has seen an increase in news, more or less truthful, circulating on the web, concerning the relationship between any foods and the possibility of preventing the infection from covid19, strengthening our immune system.

Gloria Barraco, MD and nutritionist, author of the successful Italian book. “Matricole a Tavole”, the first nutrition manual for off-site students and not only” (Ultra Edizioni, 2020), explains how to deal with the emergency at table, helping us to understand what is best to consume in this period and, above all, to defend ourselves from the incorrect information they create anxieties.

The Italian Ministry of Health declares that: “Usually, respiratory diseases are not transmitted through food, which must in any case be handled respecting good hygiene practices and avoiding contact between raw and cooked food”. In your book, you also offer ideas for food storage. Can you share any advice on this?

Of course, it is important to take care of the hygiene and cleanliness of the food we bring to the table. It is a rule that always applies and today, in the face of this health emergency, it becomes fundamental. It can be the right opportunity to learn techniques that can become our routine even when all this is over.

– Let’s start with shopping! Carrying washable and reusable fabric bags, as well as being an ecological gesture, is also useful for ensuring greater hygiene. The fabric bags are, in fact, washable with each reuse.

– If the shopping has been brought home (thanks to the many home delivery services active during this period), it is important not to place the envelopes that have arrived on the table or on the kitchen surface.

– Before storing food in the refrigerator, change the bag. Fruits and vegetables, for example, can be stored very well in damp cloths or paper towels.

– Washing your hands is essential before handling any food.

– It is essential to cook well the foods to be eaten cooked. And manipulate them away from those that will be eaten raw.

– It is useful to clean fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw or peeled under running water and baking soda.

The web, which proved to be very useful in this period, is also a vehicle of many misleading information concerning the covid19. Among the most “popular” the suggestion according to which a daily consumption of Vitamin C, would help prevent the contagion from Covid19. In a short time, the pharmacies registered a sudden sale of supplements, as well as the fruit departments, a surge in the sale especially of oranges. Can you clarify this, also explaining what risks are involved with an overdose of vitamin C and why, rather than supplements, is it better to prefer fruit and vegetables?

What does not catch the eye and which should instead be noted is that often in these articles / messages that run there is a subliminal advertising that makes us slaves; sometimes the explicit name of a product / supplement is mentioned, sometimes the message is almost hidden and written at the bottom or even the article (sometimes even published in well-known magazines) is financed / written directly by someone from the company. And we immediately resort to the supplement. “It doesn’t hurt so much! Better to take it than not to take it. ” But it’s not quite like that! Substances extracted from their natural context in which they play their defense role do not always continue to play their role if reduced to powders and small particles and well packaged in capsules or worse still added to substitute drinks and meals. At best, we are buying yet another “illusion”, without any effect, however “at a high price”; in the worst case scenario we are taking something in excess of our needs that could even harm us. Let’s take the example of vitamin C. Vitamin C has potential drug interactions and this should be considered in those who are taking drugs for other reasons. Some basic pathological conditions, such as diabetes, liver and kidney disease, can alter its elimination and make its metabolism difficult. Indeed, despite being advertised and taken as an antioxidant precisely because of its effect on the immune system, there are studies that demonstrate its pro-oxidant effect.  The supplements are used to “supplement” and for my professional experience I would say in very particular and very limited situations and their consumption must still be regulated and recommended by the doctor / nutritionist. I reiterate an important concept: there are no supplements that can replace the benefits of a diet rich in colors, natural pigments and bioactive substances taken with food. There are no supplements that alone and not inserted in a context of healthy, balanced nutrition and which guarantees every macro and micronutrient can serve to make our complex human machine work or even heal.
The same goes for food. Vitamin C is mostly contained in oranges, kiwis, strawberries; this does not mean that we have to “gorge” on these foods in this period. We know, in fact, that for example, an excess of oranges can favor the onset of gastroesophageal reflux in predisposed patients; or that excess strawberries can have an allergenic effect and promote food hypersensitivity. So, even for food itself, the rule of balance and common sense applies.

Among the reports circulating in this period, there is that according to which garlic would prevent infection with new coronavirus or that eating many proteins would increase the effectiveness of the immune system. Still, just as drinking a lot of water would help push the virus into the stomach from where it would be destroyed by the acid. Can you clarify and provide some useful advice on how to defend ourselves from certain irrelevant news that run on the web?

The common sense I mentioned earlier. If we had had the “magic food” or the winning strategy at the moment, the world would not have to do with this health emergency. Choosing and understanding the source from which to extract information is important! Let us not be “duped” by the messages that run on social media, on whatapp, without a name and without a source. But as I said before, unfortunately, magazines and newspapers also of a certain fame sometimes finsicono to publish these news, to make news precisely! Fortunately, authorized entities have started to clarify the false news. So, before implementing any indication given, checking if it is a fake news is now simple. Just search for it on the web and extract information only from trusted sites and sources. The Ministry of Health, and several certified sites, also offer non-professionals the opportunity to trace fake news. Just write the news and write “fake news” on the side. If it is, there will be a clarification from authorized bodies.
And then common sense is fundamental. I repeat as there are no supplements, there is no food that alone saves us or gives us miraculous effects.

How to eat better at the time of the Corona virus, from breakfast to dinner?

As a scholar of chronobiology, a science that studies our biological rhythms, I say that it takes rhythm. Maintaining a certain routine even in quarantine is of primary importance in order not to let this health emergency upset our daily lives and negatively affect our health. THE KING’S BREAKFAST. The morning has gold in the mouth even in quarantine and it is essential to consume it even if you stay still or at home (moving little) since it is the moment of maximum metabolic activity in which to indulge in a dessert is also less harmful. Sweet or savory it should never be skipped! It’s time to enrich it with whole grain cereals, milk of all kinds, yoghurt and “pamper yourself” with the flavors of cocoa, cinnamon, lemon, ginger, adding fresh fruit and dried fruit of all kinds that you provide us a full of minerals, vitamins and a load of antioxidants and energy. A rich breakfast also has positive effects on mood, and at the moment it can only help us face every day with greater positivity. THE LUNCH PRINCE. It is complete with a protein source (meat, fish, eggs, legumes, cheeses …), a source of carbohydrates (pasta, bread, rice, potatoes or other cereals …) and lots of vegetables. Add colors. As an appetizer, as a sauce for pasta or rice, as a side dish … it is the right occasion to “color” our meals and enrich them with nutrients that boost our immune system. And then comes the POOR DINNER. Many interpret light dinner as a desperate resort to vegetables only, removing precious sources of carbohydrates and proteins. It must be quantitatively lighter than lunch but not incomplete. The co-presence of sources of protein (fish, meat, eggs, legumes …) and carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes …) will also be essential to promote good sleep, a regenerating and good sleep melatonin levels. It is the right time to taste meatballs, omelettes enriched with vegetables, prepare and try home-made wraps and to pamper yourself with delicious velvety vegetables, even cold or warm. Treat hydration. Furthermore, retraining moments of relaxation and movement even at home is of fundamental importance for mood and physical fitness. A jog on the spot, skipping rope, bodyweight exercises can be perfect for creating a small circuit of exercises to be repeated even daily within the walls of your home.

Matricole a tavola: Una ricetta per la vita

PH:Ermelinda Lombardo


About the author

Veronica Lavenia

PhD (former University academic). Italian based food writer, magazine contributor, some of my works have appeared and appears in the most popular International food magazine, as “Gluten-free Heaven”; "Vegetarian Living"; "Veggie Magazine"; "Lifestyle FOOD"; "Australian Good Food & Travel Guide; and "Chickpea", among others.
Foodpreneur, founder of @laveniasicilianchocolate