Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the flu season, behaviors such as quality sleep, exercise and regularly washing one’s hands are vital to improving your immune system. But when it comes to food, knowing what nutrients you need to fortify your health can make all the difference.
“The flu season is upon us and keeping yourself healthy is of paramount importance,” said Brian Downs, an urgent care physician at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. “Eating a nutritious diet and regular exercise are the keys to maintaining a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system can help you fight off common colds and the flu.”
Downs recommends looking at three categories: fruits and vegetables; proteins and whole grains; and vitamins and minerals.
“Protein sources such as lean meats, dairy, eggs and legumes are especially important because they supply the amino acids that your body needs to build the components of your immune system,” he said, adding that everyone also needs at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables to receive adequate vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Here are some recipes to consider trying:
Whether you’re looking to stave off colds and the flu or if you’re starting to feel under the weather, make an immune booster shot.
“Whenever I start feeling like I’m coming down with something, I make an immune booster shot and get a bit of rest. I’ve done this for years and whenever I have, I have never gotten fully sick,” said recipe developer Cheryl Malik on 40aprons.com, which offers clean eating, healthy recipes.
Malik’s shot recipe is jam-packed with immune-boosting ingredients such as ginger, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits; lemon, which supplies a healthy dose of Vitamin C; garlic, known to reduce cold-like symptoms; and honey, a natural sweetener that soothes sore throats.
The trick to this recipe is to incorporate fresh ingredients for maximum benefits and drink immediately after making the drink.
Prep time: 5 mins
1 tablespoon honey
1 navel orange
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
Dash of cayenne pepper
Dash of real sea salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Grind of black pepper
1 tablespoon Natures Intent, with “the Mother”, organic apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon hot water
Mince the garlic and set aside for 10 minutes to give the enzymes a chance to form, ensuring maximum benefits, said Malik.
Whisk together the honey, turmeric and hot water until the honey is incorporated and smooth.
Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Chicken veggie soup
You can never go wrong with a colorful, hearty soup, if you fill it with a variety of vegetables.
Take this chicken soup recipe from Anna Leszczynska, an educator in the Kaiser Permanente Center for Healthy Living, which includes parsnips, carrots, celery and onions.
Parsnips, for example, are a great source of vitamins C and K, as well as fiber and folate. Carrots can protect immune cells from free radical damage and celery can help fight off infections with its antimicrobial properties, which boosts immunity.
Prep time: 1 hr and 45 mins
· ½ organic chicken
· 4 medium carrots (peeled and cut into medallions)
· 4 celery stalks (cut into 2” pieces) and celery root sliced (optional)
· 2 parsnips (peeled and cut into medallions)
· ½ large onion – can be caramelized or charred
· 4 bay leaves
· All spice
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 10 – 12 cups of water
· Fresh flat chopped parsley (added on the end)
1. Wash chicken under cold water and put into a large pot, cover with cold water and add a pinch of salt, bay leaf and allspice.
2. Cook on low heat for about an hour.
3. Remove foam/scum with the spoon while cooking.
4. Add vegetables.
5. Cook an additional 45 min – 1 hr.
6. Serve hot with boiled potatoes or noodles or barley with lots of black pepper and chopped parsley.
Get a meal plan going
If you’re trying to get ahead for the week, try setting up meal prep with foods that target what you’re trying to achieve. To support a strong immune system, try incorporating foods that are high in vitamin C, such as bell peppers or kiwi; and zinc, such as beans, grains and beef.
Here’s a simple meal prep idea to keep in mind, courtesy of Leszczynska:
First thing in the morning: On an empty stomach, drink a cup of hot water with freshly squeezed lemon juice from half a lemon.
Breakfast: Plain kefir or Greek yogurt, oatmeal with cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, a kiwi and green tea with ginger and honey.
Lunch: Ginger miso-grilled salmon on a bed of lentils and sauerkraut.
Snack: Broccoli and bell peppers with garlic hummus.
Dinner: Chicken soup with carrots, celery, onions, potatoes and freshly chopped parsley.
Dessert: Carrot pudding.
Liquids: Drink at least 8 cups of fluids in between meals: ginger tea with honey, green tea, green juice, and water.