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Select Foods to Improve Health and Build up Immunity

Posted: Friday, May 22, 2020. 1:33 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Marcelino  Avila, PhD: The aggressive measures taken in Belize to protect us against the global COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted our everyday life, including our food and health systems. Because our social safety nets are fragile, the loss of employment and income as a result of Covid-19 will severely worsen access to food and all forms of malnutrition, especially for those at the bottom of the ladder. Since the Covid-19 threat will continue for the foreseeable future, it will cause deficiencies and other undesirable effects on the development of our children and youth.

On his death bed with pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs, the great designer and entrepreneur of Apple computers, was quoted as stating that one should select and “eat foods as medicine or later one will have to eat medicines as food”. How true and wise!  Unfortunately we seldom follow his advice, which explains why we have a young population with increasing problems of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease in Belize.

It has been well documented that people above 65 years of age are vulnerable to Covid-19 because their immune system naturally becomes weaker as they age, which makes it harder for their bodies to fight off viral infections. Hence we need to deliberately consume more foods that are good for our health and can build up our immune systems. Fortunately there are local and indigenous crops and vegetables we can include or produce more of in our farming systems. Here are some suggestions, in parentheses the scientific names, of plants that are recommended particularly for our immune system:

Amaranth (Amaranthus)                               Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius)

Chayote (Sechium edule)                              Desert Lime (Citrus glauca)

Plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana)               Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)

Turnip (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa)             Mung bean (Vigna radiata)

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)                             Tepary Beans (Phaseolus acutifolius)

Red bell pepper (Capsicum annuum)       Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var botrytis )

Garlic (Allium sativum)                                  Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)                          Blueberries (Vaccinium Cyanococcus)

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Some of them have a high price in the local markets, not because they are expensive to grow, but rather because the amount consumed is low, hence production is low. More consumption and demand would reduce the cost of production, due to the economies of scale, and thus reduce the market price in the medium term. At the farm level, many of these plants can be intercropped or planted in relay or rotation with our traditional crops, thereby also increasing the biodiversity and productivity of land and labor.

This is a perfect example of the type of change we must make in our food production and human nutrition practices to live and hopefully survive under the “new normal’ imposed by Covid-19 pandemic.


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