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The official website of Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, low carb pioneers and authors of Protein Power.

Covid-19’s Silver Lining

Poached Chicken F&W Chicken Soups article

We’ve long held it as true that one of the best things people can do for their health is to spend more time in their own kitchens — e.g. cooking at home with ingredients you know and trust. And this week and next (and how much longer we don’t know) as we hunker down as a country in a stringent attempt to mitigate the spread of covid-19, we’re given the opportunity to put that to the test. If there is any sort of silver lining to this catastrophe, maybe this is it.

You are what you eat.

At a recent trip to the grocery store, I was a bit dismayed to see the aisles of bread, packaged junk food, soft drinks, and (for no cogent reason I can imagine) toilet paper emptied out. Not that I wanted any of that stuff, because I don’t buy it, except for the toilet paper, but I was somewhat struck because there was meat — beautiful bone-in ribeyes were marked down by about 60% and racks of baby backs by half. And there was cream, full fat cheese of all types, and produce available. Yet people were hoarding bread, junk food … and toilet paper.

(To be clear — the shelves get refilled regularly, so there’s no need to panic. There should be plenty of food and toilet paper available if people don’t lose their good sense!)

For those of us in the low-carb community who typically eschew processed carby junk anyway, now’s the time (with a little flexibility and creativity) to enjoy eating high-quality food we cook at home, that we make ourselves with good quality fats (organic lard, EVOO, beef tallow, duck fat, avocado oil, coconut oil) and nutritious ingredients. So when you shop in your local store, keeping a mindful social distance of 6 feet, look for whatever bargains are to be had in the meat, seafood, and poultry cases and the produce bins. (I not only found huge bone-in ribeyes, normally priced over $25 for $9.99, but also a large bag of individually wrapped frozen salmon fillets normally over $20 for a store special of $9.99 and racks of baby backs for just over $10.)  See what’s there and be creative.

For inspiration, here is a collection of Food & Wine’s 100 Best Stew and One Pot recipes that you can use to make good use of tougher meats, ground meat, and whatever lower-carb veggies you find at the store. It’s pretty easy to replace the starchier elements, such as potatoes, corn, pasta, and rice with cauliflower, peppers, spaghetti squash, shiritaki mushroom pasta, or zoodles.

And in another angle here, since radishes are usually not on the top of the junk food buyer’s list and likely available, a collection for Radishes 17 Ways!

Or this collection of 36 Chicken Soup recipes (including the poached chicken dish in the photo).

Get the family involved in the cooking. Substitute carbier ingredients with lower starch, lower sugar ones. Use good fats and bone broths (or make your own bone broth!) Spend time in your own kitchen creating good food to nourish your family.

What else you can do.

But most of all, use this time to improve yourself and the world around you in some way. Here are some ideas:

  • Cook and eat nourishing foods to bolster your immune system. (Foods with vitamin D, such as salmon or mackerel, liver, full-fat dairy, good cheeses and those with vitamin C, such as tomatoes.)
  • Do body weight workouts, such as this one (admittedly my favorite) or this one.
  • Tackle the reading list you’ve been amassing, but not actually doing.
  • Get on Duo-Lingo or some other free online language site and begin to actually learn the French or Italian (or whatever language) you’ve promised yourself you would someday learn.
  • If you’re musical, play music or sing together. If you’re not, that’s OK, just listen to something soothing to your soul for respite. Involved listening is also participation in music.
  • Get outside, if you can, but even if it’s just sitting by an open window, get some sunshine and fresh air.
  • Meditate. Take a few minutes just to breathe and be calm within yourself. (The Calm app can be a big help!)
  • Maintain your sense of humor — laughter is a strong medicine. Watch a really funny, LOL movie, whatever makes you belly laugh. (Mike’s all-time favorite in that category is The Great Race and I’d have to say mine is probably The Life of Brian or, oddly, Meet the Fockers or classics like The Pink Panther. But there’s also The Three Stooges or even Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote cartoons.)

Be vigilant but be hopeful, too.

As we stay in as required to mitigate the spread, there’s one bit of data we can look to for hope. Remember that on the Diamond Princess there were 3700 people of somewhat older age, who were confined closely together, with covid-19 in their midst, without knowing at first there was a problem. They were mingling, laughing, dining, dancing, shaking hands, and hugging. Of the 3700 passengers and crew, all of whom were tested, only 700 people tested positive, about 1 in 5 or 6. Of those, half were asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms, half exhibited symptoms, some were sicker, and only 8 of them died, about 1% of those testing positive. But if you look at the big picture, that is the whole 3700 person ‘test group’ on the ship (who all had the chance to be exposed) only 0.2% died.

Those numbers are about what we’re seeing currently in the US. As of yesterday over, according to Johns Hopkins, 195,000 people had been tested; there were 19,624 positive tests — only 1 in 10 people with suggestive symptoms is testing positive . And so far there have been 260 deaths, a fatality rate of 1.3%.

That isn’t to belittle the risk or seriousness of the virus in any way and we hate to know that there was even one death. But it’s at least somewhat comforting to remember that in the final analysis of that early microcosm of infection spread, this shipboard pilot study of covid-19 if you will, 99% of people came through OK. The great majority (81%) didn’t even pick it up and of those who did pick it up, they had no symptoms, mild symptoms, or got sick but ultimately recovered. We all hope that the stringent measures that have been put in place regarding travel, shutdown of schools, churches, and entire sectors of the economy, as well as voluntary social distancing will flatten the curve of spread.

And so our task must be to focus on protecting the segment of the population that is most at risk for serious consequences from exposure — in the case of covid-19, mainly the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the infirm. We should be eating nourishing food, washing hands well and often, covering coughs and sneezes (with a tissue that we throw away and then wash hands well again!), staying home when sick, checking on vulnerable family members, neighbors, or friends. But that’s really just what we ought to be doing every year when the typical (or atypical) influenza season rolls around, killing tens of thousands of Americans annually.

The days may be long and stressful right now, but the time will actually be short. Make the most of it and we’ll pray to come out the other side in better, healthier shape.

18 Comments

  1. Lori Miller on March 22, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    I’ve been posting bread substitute recipes (including recipes for muffins and pizza) on Nextdoor for people who want bread but can’t find it. I mentioned making almond flour by putting some almonds in a bag and hammering them, since almond flour is expensive (if available). Hopefully, it helped a few people keep their blood sugar down–and out of stores looking for bread.

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 23, 2020 at 12:18 pm

      Very helpful thing to do and I’m sure folks thank you for it! And if they have a food processor or blender they can crush almonds that way, too. Stay well!

  2. Charles Gale on March 23, 2020 at 4:45 am

    Hi Doc

    Greetings from England. I really appreciate the positivity of this blog and the useful tips and so on.

    With reference to shopping, the UK supermarket chains are stepping up to the plate. Primarily, now opening from 8am to 8pm to allow staff to clean and tidy the stores, and fill the shelves.

    A popular observation has been that if everyone had just done their normal shopping we might have avoided the empty shelves.

    Once again, thanks for the post!

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 23, 2020 at 12:16 pm

      Absolutely. It’s disheartening to see people with shopping carts with 2 or 3 10-packs of toilet paper in them. But I think, now, that the stores are trying to take positive action (as you mentioned) by limiting some items to 1 or 2 per customer. I know that eggs (which we eat a lot of) have been limited to 2 cartons per household, for instance. And our stores here where we live are opening an hour early exclusively for the senior population to be able to shop in smaller crowds. We’ll get through it — and I hope sooner rather than later!

  3. Pam Dale on March 23, 2020 at 11:33 am

    One of a few very helpful articles.
    I’ve followed you and read you for many years.
    Thank you Drs. Eades!

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 23, 2020 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. You’re welcome!

  4. Victoria K Gayton on March 23, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you for this informative, supportive article!

    Just reading your list of funny movies–especially, for me, “Meet the Fockers” and “Life of Brian”–made me laugh. (I also suggest “Being There” with Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine. Though dated based on its 1979 release, it’s hilarious and remains relevant today on many levels.

    Special thanks for the link to the chicken soup recipes, too. You rock. 🙂

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 23, 2020 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks back! I’ll have to get Being There, which somehow I’ve missed. Love Peter Sellers, so it should be right up my alley.

  5. Marion Summers on March 23, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    That’s interesting that you can find meat. I live in a Saint Louis suburb and we are rationed to 2 packages of each variety of meat per shopping visit.

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 23, 2020 at 2:09 pm

      That’s the difference between living in one of the country’s centers of great barbecue and ground zero for sprouts and tofu, I guess. Costco had plenty of meat, fish, and poultry when we were there two days ago, but they, too, were rationing eggs to a single 18-ct carton per shopper.

  6. fred hahn on March 23, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Hey Mike! Good post. And don’t forget our at home SlowBurn workouts!

    SlowBurn Home Exercises

    Introduction video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCvOTsc2Ue0

    Getting started – Tools you’ll need, etc.:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AK–cZhW2s

    Pushups

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYElsimFNQ0&t=10s

    Side shoulder raises:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1hdqCwibns

    Biceps curls:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc8GbyxJLEs

    Hamstrings curls:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUzAI-5v4mw

    Side glutes:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOFpTL9WgOE

    Doorknob squats:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqMCQ_YlVM8

    Abdominal crunches (towards the end of the video)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yj-2mNGhXI

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 23, 2020 at 11:51 pm

      Hey, Fred! To be honest, I didn’t know you had all those videos or I would certainly have mentioned them as well! They’re a great resource!

  7. fred hahn on March 24, 2020 at 7:17 am

    I’ll be making more soon – updated and more betta! Stay healthy doc. The world needs your wisdom! AND sorry for calling you Mike!

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 26, 2020 at 3:02 pm

      Back atcha, Fred. And no probs calling me Mike — we’re pretty much joined at the hip (especially in these cloistered times) — LOL!

  8. chainey on March 24, 2020 at 8:52 am

    Another possible silver lining occurred to me today. Putting aside for a moment the emotional and economic cost, I wonder how many people, until we come clear of this, won’t be in a car crash because there will be fewer cars to hit or be hit by; how many tradesman won’t fall off roofs or be mangled or poisoned in industrial accidents because they’re sitting at home, and how much less smog there will be in big cities, and so on. At least in countries that lock down very tightly. Perhaps there will even been more lives saved than lost by this virus.

    But then again there will extra stress, extra friction and even violence from living in enforced close quarters.

    However to expand on your original point, I think that even without meaning to, people will probably eat at least a little better. They won’t be eating so much take-out since there won’t be as many opportunities. I seem to remember that death rates dropped both in the great depression and in war-time England as people were effectively forced into intermittent fasting – not that I’m suggesting it will get that bad, but you see my point.

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 26, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      Absolutely the fatal consequences of these usual ‘calculated risks’ will fall. No doubt about it. There was a great article today in Geopolitical Futures by George Freidman that beautifully articulated this precise point. There are risks inherent in living ordinary lives that we live. We assume and accept those risks as worth it — driving a car, crossing the street, flying or taking a bus or train or taxi. To put things into perspective, as we are in forced isolation against the spread of SARS-cov2 (covid-19), this flu season alone in the US approximately 45 million people have tested positive for the flu and 46,000 Americans have died from flu, despite presumed semi-effective medical therapies. This is a pretty high number, but not uncommon and it happens every single year. Yet we assume the risk of living our lives anyway. One clear benefit of forced isolation will surely be to blunt the number of flu deaths this season from what would have occurred. Thanks for pointing up another silver lining — we can use all of them we can muster.

  9. Mardel Fehrenbach on March 27, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    My regular grocery store meat aisle had been decimated, but Costco had tons of meat. And vegetables are plentiful in both stores yet the frozen pizza, cereal, cracker and cookie aisles are bare. It all seems to say a great deal. It seems to me it is all related, protecting those at risk by staying in, but also learning to cook and eat well again would be protective to those at risk, and perhaps even lower the number of people at risk. Sometimes so much is revealed in what might be the oddest places.

    • Mary Dan Eades on March 27, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      Spot on. Hoping that at least some good can come of this crisis!

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