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In the kitchen at the time of SARS-CoV-2: some advice for our students

20 March 2020

The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic led to a forced immobility, forcing us to review our eating habits. In this article we thought especially of students, mainly the off-site students, who found themselves reorganizing the time of meals and combining lessons, study, hobbies and cooking. How to do it? We asked the collaboration of Dr. Stefano Erzegovesi, a psychiatrist and nutritionist, director of the Center for Food Disorders of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan.

Dr. Erzegovesi, how should we change our diet in the current lockdown?

Forced immobility is an opportunity to reduce the energy intake of the day, favoring the consumption of low-calorie foods, as are all fresh vegetable products, and fruit. The forced stop can also be a wonderful opportunity to return to the home kitchen and resume the habit of preparing food, starting from fresh and seasonal ingredients. To be limited throughout the year, and even more so in this period, are refined industrial foods, with high energy density, as well as the excess of animal proteins.

Are there any foods that strengthen our immune defenses?

Mother Nature, generous and wise, offers us all the raw materials useful to better fight winter diseases. Two things above all: a) abundance of fiber, therefore whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit, fibers that nourish our friendly intestinal bacteria, the most precious allies to keep the immune system trained; b) abundance of vitamins, minerals and, above all, antioxidant polyphenols, so as to strengthen the integrity of the mucous membranes which, in this season, are our first defensive bulwark. So we abound in vegetables and fruits of all colors and get used to enjoying the concentrated antioxidant charge of aromatic herbs and spices.

Any advice on how to organize our days?

We try to get to the table at regular times, with dinner not too late, and to have meals in a quiet environment, far from the distraction of television or cell phones. Three meals a day are indicated (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and, if desired, an afternoon snack with fresh fruit. It is important to have dinner early and allow at least 2 hours to pass between dinner and bedtime. Good sleep is also an important ally of our immune defenses.

Any example of an ideal menu for a student?


- let's not miss a nice cup of green tea, rich in powerful antioxidant polyphenols from the catechin family and ally of a careful and concentrated brain.

- immediately help our friendly intestinal bacteria with half a cup (125 ml) of fermented milk (yogurt or, better, kefir), obviously without sugar; if we really want to feel a little sweet taste, we put fresh fruit into small pieces of yogurt.

- give the body and brain the right energy boost with a slice of wholemeal bread, a veil of sugar-free almond cream and a veil of jam (excellent is that of blueberries or other berries, all rich in antioxidant anthocyanins).

- speaking of almonds, in the morning, but also for a snack, a handful (15 grams) of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios) or oilseeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame) is also fine.


- let's start with a rich appetizer of seasonal vegetables, e.g. a cream of broccoli, a plate of sautéed artichokes and a mixed salad.

- let's load ourselves with carbohydrates with low glycemic impact, therefore of the integral type, and with the precious legume fibers. A few examples? All those of the long-lived and healthy Mediterranean tradition: pasta and beans, spelled and lentils, rice and peas, polenta and mushrooms, and any other combination of whole grains and vegetable proteins.


Good study and take care of yourself!

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