How To Optimize Your Nutrition and Mental Health in Times of Stress, According to An Expert

For those of us in self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s forced us to reset. We are now in timeout. So how do we proceed to reset? Each of us can take this pause to strengthen ourselves. Spend time in external confinement to find internal freedom. We keep going to external sources to replenish the almost-empty wells of our bodies, minds, and spirits. To that, I am experienced to speak.

Ayurvedic Nutrition

When this has run its course, most of us will likely still have stocked pantries and freezers. From an ethical standpoint, I do not like waste. From a nutritional standpoint, I say this: If it comes out of the freezer moldy, toss. If it comes out of the pantry moldy, same. Unless, of course, it is Roquefort, then crack the Sauternes. Roquefort is a sheep’s-milk cheese that is easier to digest than that of a cow.

An Ayurvedic diet is a plant-based diet prepared with medicinal spices that may be incorporated into any palate. Please don’t think an Ayurvedic diet solely means consuming heaping teaspoons of Bhut Naga jolokia (a ghost chili, the hottest in the world). It is not strictly vegetarian. Personal choice and nutritional needs should be taken into consideration. Let’s share a few finds here, shall we? Sweet, smoky, and spicy, in that order.

Hari elaichi (green cardamom) is a source of supplements that aids in digestion, lowers your blood pressure, and soothes heartburn and IBS. It’s anti-inflammatory and, most likely, in your morning chai latte already. Its floral sweetness is suited for cakes and breads. I’m not giving you a pass to pop open prepared cake every day. But if you make one yourself or support a local business that does, I urge you to take joy in a slice.

Next up is jeera powder (cumin). This earthy spice flavors savory recipes like soups, and is a good source of fiber, thiamine, phosphorus, potassium, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Studies of cumin reveal potential health benefits in combating diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and drug dependency. It fights bacteria and parasites, boosts your immune system, aids in weight loss, and acts as an aphrodisiac. When weight loss and aphrodisiac shows up on any health list, everybody’s ears perk up. Quick aside: Massage your ears to get your immune system stirring.

Last but not least is lal mirch powder (red chili). This one’s for those of us who are not going anywhere near the ghost chili. Red chili is a source of vitamin C, potassium, and capsaicin. It’s good for supporting your immune system and heart health, and is quite tasty on salmon. Do you see nutrients and benefits overlapping? Nothing is a singular cure-all. Medicinal spices are like sprinkling fairy dust over your health. While you’re preparing your meal, I’d suggest sipping a turmeric tea cocktail for your immunity. Forgo the booze and caffeine. Though the occasional celebratory martinis and espresso are allowed, of course. It is also important to eat with the seasons and know your specific constitution. In Ayurvedic medicine, this is called dosha, a.k.a. body type.

Vitamins and Supplements

Please don’t run out and hoard gummy vitamins with corn syrup. The quality of the supplements you take is essential. The internal path of nutrients is an intricate one. The purer the supplement, the faster your cells rejoice. I recommend Pure Essentials. Their powerful immune-boosting combination of buffered C, quercetin, vitamin D3, oregano oil and zinc. Pure Essentials supplements are nutraceuticals, medical-grade vitamins that are not heat fused, and are without fillers and non-GMO. They have 96 percent bioavailability versus the 6 percent in average shelf brands. A few more favorites: turmeric and curcumin from Nurish.Me and elderberry from Gaia.

Mental Clarity

Now let’s get into your mind a bit. No worries, I know we are all scared. Your mind’s probably peddling like a spin class. I’m going to tell you something completely empowering: We have complete control over our thoughts. Complete. You’re not going to spin those thoughts anymore. You’re going to learn which thoughts to keep and which thoughts to send packing. You’re going to meditate. Did I just add to your fright? Honestly, I don’t understand that fright. You have enough worries, and trying to sit quietly is not one of them. What else can you do to regain some semblance of control to unlock yourself from worry? Think out of the box. There are a lot of unemployed dance instructors out there who are happy to offer us a virtual class, I imagine. Our bodies will thank us for the movement. Our brains will thank us for the challenge of a new skill. And ConEd will thank us for enabling the dance instructor to pay the bill. Do you see how everything circles back in connection when we go back to the basic thought that we all are connected? Perspective is the skill we need.

How high does our spirit lift if we look down into the canals of Venice and see schools of tiny fish and dolphins looking up at us? Soar, maybe? Mine did. Until National Geographic informed me it wasn’t true. National Geographic knows a bit more about wildlife than Twitter and the news media. I’m not saying this to be a downer. I’m saying it to illustrate the importance of going to the most knowledgeable, trusted source you can find for specific information in any field. The most specific knowledge we need now is guidance regarding our health. Good health equips us to go out into our world and do what it is we do best to help it. We are each an integral element of the whole. That knowledge should lift our spirits. One of us will clear the waters and skies. Greenpeace tells me the skies are bluer over Beijing. I trust them. They’re in the environment business. Good news, when it is true, immeasurably lifts our spirits. Lifted spirits means a lifted immune system. Choosing to follow the loudest voice rather than the most knowledgeable voice is where we start to skid into as dangerous a territory as a virus can take us.

East Meets West

Safety is your main concern right now. Your health care practitioners are your allies. A patient’s individual plan of health care is based on their unique constitution, existing health, lifestyle, and personal needs. That is our focus at the Juhi Ash Center in New York City. Good health is not determined solely by the hands of Eastern or Western medicine. Good health is in the knowledge and use of both. And most importantly, it is in your own hands. I wholeheartedly advise that, wherever you live, you seek out what is broadly referred to as an Integrated Medical Practice. Not merely a Western physician who is okay with you getting acupuncture somewhere else. Or a gym with nutritional blood-testing abilities. Rather, a place where each is not only considered but has the ability to implement everything under one roof.

With a healthy mind, we have the power to control our thoughts. With a healthy body, we have the power to act upon them. With a healthy soul, we have the opportunity to act with dignity.

Juhi Singh, MA, LAc is an Oriental medicine specialist, acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She is the founder of The Juhi Ash Center located in Manhattan.

The strength of your immune system is your greatest asset. During this unprecedented time of social distancing, the medical and wellness experts at the Juhi Ash Center are intent on helping you retain and increase the strength of your immunity. We are now offering virtual concierge services for your physical and emotional health. Juhi Singh will offer initial complimentary consultations on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 646-649-4336.

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