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Foods and Drinks that Arab Americans Should Continue to Stock-up on During the Coronavirus Pandemic

posted on: Mar 25, 2020

By: Tasnim Elnasharty/Arab America Contributing Writer 

In response to the evolving COVID-19–Coronavirus outbreak, there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is passed on through food. However, there are some Arab foods that contribute immensely to your immune system. Below is a list of Arab foods that makes our immune system stronger which lowers the risk of contracting the virus. For all foods listed below, see recipes on the Arab America website,  

1. Lentils 

Lentils are rich in polyphenols. Some of the polyphenols in lentils, such as procyanidin and flavonols, are known to have strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. Eating lentils is associated with an overall lower risk of heart disease. It has positive effects on several risk factors. It helps lower your blood pressure.

A study in rats revealed that those eating lentils had greater reductions in blood pressure levels compared to those given either peas, chickpeas or beans. In addition, lentils are easy to cook, with split lentils only taking about 5 minutes and other varieties around 20 minutes to prepare.

2. Olive Oil 

Olive oil is the foremost source of fat in the Mediterranean area; it doesn’t only taste good but also has higher levels of antioxidants and other micronutrients that may help protect against diseases. For example, it fights against Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. 

Tips for using olive oil include:

  • Drizzling it on a salad or adding it to a salad dressing
  • Drizzling it on Humos, Baba Ghannouj, and foul.
  • Drizzling it on a freshly made bread
  • Using it when making bread
  • Using it instead of other fats when frying 

3. Bulgur

Another Arab food to have in your pantry is bulgur. Bulgur is an edible cereal grain made from dried, cracked wheat. Most commonly, durum wheat, but also from other wheat species. Bulgur originated in the Mediterranean from thousands of years back. To this day, it’s a staple ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. In addition, Bulgur wheat provides various nutrients and is an especially good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, and fiber.

Bulgur wheat is very simple to prepare. It is available in fine, medium or coarse varieties and takes 3–20 minutes to cook, depending on the type. The coarser the grain, the longer the cooking time. The cooking process is similar to that of rice or couscous in that boiling water is used to soften the grain.

For every one part bulgur, you typically need about two parts of water. 

Bulgur is frequently used in salads — like tabbouleh — or pilafs, alongside herbs, vegetables, spices and sometimes other grains. It can be used as a base for breakfast-style porridges with oats, or in soups, stews, chili, famous when cooked with lentils (Mujaddara). 

4. Tahini

Tahini is a paste from toasted, ground sesame seeds. It has a light, nutty flavor. It’s an essential ingredient for humos. However, it’s widely common in many dishes around the world. Particularly, in Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. Tahini contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. It’s also rich in anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats. 

Tahini is easy to add to your diet. You can purchase it online and at most grocery stores. It’s well known as an ingredient in hummus, but it also makes an excellent stand-alone spread or dips for pita bread, meat, and vegetables. You can also add it to dips, salad dressings, and baked goods.

5. Garlic 

Garlic, commonly used in Arab food and dishes, is found in almost every cuisine in the world. It adds a little zing to food and it’s a must-have for your health. Early civilizations recognized their value in fighting infections. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Trusted Source, garlic may also help lower blood pressure and slow down the hardening of the arteries. Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.  Again, see Arab recipes for the use of garlic.

6. Spinach 

Spinach made our list not just because it’s rich in vitamin C. It’s full of numerous antioxidants and beta carotene. This enhances our immune systems to fight infections. Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s uncooked. In order to retain its nutrients, it’s best to cook as little as possible. 

Drinks that Arabs Continue to Drink during COVID-19 

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is an herb that comes from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family. It has been consumed for centuries as a natural remedy for several health conditions. To make chamomile tea, the flowers are dried and then infused into hot water.

Many people enjoy chamomile tea as a caffeine-free alternative to black or green tea and for its earthy, somewhat sweet taste. Furthermore, chamomile tea is loaded with antioxidants that may play a role in lowering your risk of several diseases, including flu, heart disease, and cancer.

Nevertheless, chamomile is very safe to drink, and many people enjoy drinking it for its delicious taste and comforting aroma.

Anise Tea 

Anise is an herb. The seed (fruit) and oil, and less frequently the root and leaf, are used to make medicine. Most of Arab people use anise for upset stomach, intestinal gas, “runny nose,” and as an expectorant to increase productive cough, as a diuretic to increase urine flow, and as an appetite stimulant. In foods, anise is used as a flavoring agent. It has a sweet, aromatic taste that resembles the taste of black licorice. It is commonly used in alcohols and liqueurs, such as arak, anisette, and ouzo.

Anise has a history of use as a spice and fragrance. It has been cultivated in Egypt for at least 4,000 years. Recordings of its diuretic use and treatment of digestive problems and toothache are seen in medical texts from this era. In ancient Greek history, writings explain how anise helps breathing, relieves pain, provokes urine, and eases thirst. Therefore, many Arabs use it as a treatment before they take any medicine. Arab populations also believe that anise is a very good hot drink that makes their immune system stronger.

Honey Lemon Water 

Drinking hydrogen peroxide will kill any virus, especially now, during the Coronavirus crisis. Both honey and lemons have many health benefits, causing some to wonder if this combination is beneficial to health as well. Honey is one of the oldest foods in the world. As far back as the Stone Age, honey is essential as both food and medicine.

Honey may suppress coughs; it is a popular treatment for colds and coughs. One study found that a dose of honey was more effective than cough medicine at suppressing coughing and improving sleep in children and teens with an upper respiratory infection.     

Eating just one of these foods or occasionally sipping on one of the above hot drinks won’t be enough to help fight off the flu, neither COVID-19.  You have to consume the above-recommended foods and drinks constantly along with citrus fruit and ginger.  Eating right is a great start.  Also check other credible sources for foods and drinks that may protect you and your family from the flu, COVID-19, cold, and other illnesses. 





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