How is our Nutrition Changing in Times of Quarantine

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Social distancing measures have drastically changed the lifestyle, decadence and routines of the public. For good and for bad, we have disjointed the society that we once thought was impenetrable. In this article, we’re going to look at the nutritional implications of quarantine.

Coronavirus’ impact on nutrition: For the worse

First and foremost, it has been difficult to frequently acquire fresh produce because of lockdown restrictions. Many of us are used to living near shops where we can walk or drive, on an ad hoc basis, to get some fresh produce.

With such limitations on fresh produce, there’s no doubt that frozen, processed and/or pre-cooked food is going to be more convenient. These are undoubtedly more unhealthy, and the processed meat is proven over and over to be cancer-causing.

This is leading to weekly or even bi-weekly shops for many people. Of course, most fruit and veg do not last this long, so many are turning to takeaways, which saw a huge spike in sales. The food quality varies between takeaways, but there’s no doubt the mean is of a fairly unhealthy standard.

Coronavirus’ impact on nutrition: For the Better

An important narrative during COVID-19 has been how vitamin can help fight off the virus. Researchers at Oregon State University, along with the universities of Southampton (UK), Otago (New Zealand) and Medical Center (Netherlands), have published findings in the Nutrients Journal.

Findings showed that Zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Omega-3 fatty acid are all vital for immune function and are thus integral to our fight against coronavirus. Researchers are frequently urging the public to consume regular supplements, which in turn may result in a silver lining. The message has also extended to heat-shock proteins through sauna usage along with regular exercise in maintaining a strong immune system.

The case for bulk buying food may raise valid concerns over canned and processed foods, however, this doesn’t apply to everything. In some cases, buying frozen food can actually be beneficial. For example, vegetables are found to be higher in phytonutrients and vitamins when frozen compared to fresh. This is because the nutrition can be reduced over time of perishing, so even a few days old fresh peas are actually less fresh than frozen peas, which are frozen immediately after harvesting.

Some people have used lockdown as a reason to be more thoughtful of what they purchase, however. Whether or not they can access frequent fresh produce (many still can), we are forced to shop more infrequently and with less convenience (often online). If we cannot buy food ad-hoc, it means that we’re putting more thought into planning meals for the week.

Planning meals is a huge bonus for nutrition, because you’re going to be more aware of what you’re consuming. A French study found that meal planning is associated with better diet quality, food variety and body weight. You get a much clearer idea of whether your diet is limited and lacking variety when it’s written down weekly. Furthermore, it makes you more motivated to cook too, as it’s scheduled in.

Most importantly, weekly shops = less opportunities to impulse-buy. With resistance to frequenting the shop and more free time at home, it’s no surprise that we are cooking from home more. Google Trends show that UK searches for hot cross bun and sourdough recipes have risen during lockdown, inferring home-cooking is back on the menu, which is a good sign for our health.

Lockdown measures have brought on the ban of some products in some countries, which could be deemed to have its benefits. For example, South Africa banned the sale of alcohol and cigarettes as a means to stop the spread of the virus. Of course, there’s negative sociological, economic, political and criminal implications that have come about as a result. But! From a nutritional perspective, this is another win from quarantine — though it is somewhat overshadowed in the grand scheme of things.

The rise of meal kits

With most of us now more likely to meal planning, or at least exposed to the idea of it, meal kits have made it incredibly convenient to do so. Lockdown has presented alternatives. Sure, meal kits existed before lockdown, but they’re seen a huge rise in sign-ups since.

Such dramatic disruption to our mindless routines (or lack thereof) has shined the light on alternative ways to approach groceries. Meal planning and resistance to going to a physical store has not only made us keener to shop online, but it’s meant meal kits also flourish in quarantine.

Meal kits essentially provide a menu of meals that you select, where you can see the nutritional content and if they’re suitable for certain diets. Then, when purchasing what you want for the week, they send you the ingredients, which is conducive to social distancing.

This means that users can easily follow strict diets, because the hard work is done for them. You can simply filter recipes by ketogenic, paleo, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan and so on. This is another reason why COVID-19 has sparked a new appetite to try out healthy diets which may reduce inflammation and a surplus in carbohydrates.

The ingredients however are exact measurements of what you need for that meal. No excess. This means that you’re not forced to eat leftovers you don’t want or to snack. You get what you need and nothing more.

For most companies, the produce is fresh and organic too. This seems to consistently be a part of their identity, that they’re a healthy service. Of course, it’s not just about being careful about what we put in our mouths but what we put in our bin, too. Throwing out excess food is terrible for the environment, but something we have grown used to doing in the western world.

Meal kits tend to fit into our busy lives. Perhaps not under lockdown, but usually we have become too concerned with work or even socializing to actually spend an appropriate amount of time shopping and cooking. In fact, 41% of Americans spend

Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.

Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.

A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts.  He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.

13 thoughts on “How is our Nutrition Changing in Times of Quarantine”

  1. but then how would we get you to read the article before you realized you were being sold to? Advertisers depend on a certain level of deceit, involuntary distraction, emotional scarring (shock adverts), and spontaneous interruption to provide that tiny slice of additional 'undeserved' success. Numbers thrown around show that over 20% of food store purchases/ upsizing are made based on target strategies rather than pre-considered needs. Despite the apparent evil, a significant amount of purchases are made on impulsiveness resulting in a somewhat positive to only mildly-annoyed post-purchase result (more likely serendipity than regret). A world without advertising would be a poorer and less varied existence – despite that annoying mental nudge and loss of apparent purchasing autonomy. Ho-hum but such is one of life's 'necessary evils'.

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  2. "For most companies, the produce is fresh and organic too."
    I tend to see organic = scam
    /thoughtscapism.com/gmos/
    Go down the page there to
    On Organic vs Conventional

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  3. Mistakes were made too. Apparently, I should have refrigerated my walnuts. Hot weather ruined them. Some juice came out the tops of frozen juice jugs. I figured the bottles would just swell, but they fill these fuller than they used to. And some of my cheese went bad.
    I admit I also bought more produce than I could eat before it went bad. 
    I have been buying less and have been going to the grocery about once every 10 days or so, but I use an N95 mask. I just have to have my summer squash, leafy greens, tomatoes, navel oranges, water, and celery. And while I am there, fresh chicken is far better than frozen to me. I also go to Costco/Sam's at about that rate as well, mostly getting milk, eggs, cheese, cat food, and replacing anything stored that got used.
    I could go without going to the stores, for months, if necessary. And it may come to that, if things get bad.
    I just noticed I just got a rat on the porch. Probably a lot of those in the neighborhood now that everyone has a large amount of food stored. Must be a brave one, as I have 19 cats. Knows what it is doing. Efficiently chewed just the corner of the lids of a plastic peanut butter jar and was almost all the way around a large plastic jar I put brown rice in. Also opened a water bottle…so there is water all over. He must have arrived in the last 48 hours. I got a good look at him too in a laundry basket. Hopefully I'll catch him tonight…before he can do any more damage.
    Had a mouse last month. Cats got it.

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  4. I think it is more good than bad. I suspect people are eating a lot less fried stuff…that is a major source of health destruction. And people are learning to cook, so less dubious additives.
    Yes. There are lazy people who are eating frozen dinners, but what do they normally eat? Probably fast food.
    Less salads? Yes, probably.
    They probably thought meals, and bought frozen vegetables, fish, hamburger, turkey burger, and shrimp. True, they probably bought chicken nuggets, lasagna, and pizza too.
    Maybe they don't have fresh fruit, but they probably bought dried fruit and fruit juices.
    Some poor may have had to buy cheap frozen hot dogs, and sausage that might have otherwise bought produce and made tacos.
    But I think it is very possible to eat well during this pandemic. I bought 10 bags of frozen salmon, frozen turkey burger, 100 cans of tuna/chicken/sardines, flats of cans of a variety of beans, mushrooms, pea soup, mushroom soup, tomato soup, tomato paste, spaghetti sauce, bags of frozen: berries, green beans, broccoli, corn, and mixed vegetables. 
    I also bought orange juice, pomegranate juice, and 20 lb of parsnips and red potatoes, I put in a fridge. Some in the freezer (take a little out of each one first). And 20 butternut squashes, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds, pasta, rice, oil, brown sugar, honey and 150 lbs of popping corn.
    I did see a woman with a toddler buy utter junk…the worst gas station crud, and lots of Velveeta. Not one remotely acceptable item.

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  5. There are two kinds of vertical on Earth, stacks of trays and actual vertical panels, which I prefer, as the lights can hang own and the surfaces can be reached w/o removing the trays. Indoors is just lights in a greenhouse, but spread out. The main desired concept is high surface area with close lights and thus low volume, good for Space, but also automatic in Space, unless you are talking big settlements. But we can practice here on Earth. If the lights are efficient (NOT sunlight!), the savings in land area and water start to make it look good, not even counting the closeness advantage. Don't recall the Silent Running reference, may not have even seen the flick! Wiki: "Carl Sagan in the newspaper criticized the "technically proficient" film
    for depicting a future in which people have forgotten the
    inverse-square law , and that plants need sunlight. [8]"

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  6. I think it needs to be edited at the very end there. Seems to cut off.

    My impression has been that meal kits are too expensive for what you get, but yeah, impulsive eating doesn't work out too well for us. Meal kits probably have a future.

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  7. does 'vertical', in the sense of how to orient farms to minimize footprint, have meaning in space? I prefer a Silent Running type space object/ presence, to be frank.

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