Welcome to the Frugal Foodie Corner! My Frugal Foodie Friends, I will be sharing weekly tips for stretching food budgets, having fun and making do in the kitchen and garden. This column is about growing food, storing food and preparing food. All are welcome here. This column’s comments are for sharing and learning, about food only please.
Today’s column is about how to let your food be your medicine by eating immune boosting foods. Eating healthy is always important. We often hear about the new diet, additive or super food fad, but which foods really do boost immunity? Let’s look at some immune boosting, nutrient rich, super star foods. I suggest trying to eat a few every day.
*Citrus fruits such as grapefruits, oranges, mandarins, tangerines, lemons, and limes are packed with vitamin C. Vitamin C is important because it boosts our white blood cells ability to fight infections. Whole fruit contains more fiber than juice. Citrus makes a great snack, is easily added to salads, enhances the flavor of seafood, and brightens sauces.
*Red or orange bell peppers contain three times the vitamin C of an orange. They are also full of beta carotene which speeds healing. Bell peppers can be eaten fresh in salads or as slices with dip for maximum vitamin C. They are also tasty cooked to add to pasta sauce, stir fry, pizza, omelets or stuffed roasted bell peppers.
*Broccoli is full of vitamins A, C and E, fiber and antioxidants which are all important to a healthy immune system. Other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts are also rich in the same vitamins, fiber & antioxidants, You can eat broccoli raw with dip, steamed topped with cheese sauce, in soup, or in quiche. Cabbage leaves make an excellent wrapper—just put filling in, roll up, steam, and enjoy.
*Garlic has a heavy concentration of sulfur, which is anti-inflammatory and crucial when fighting infections because it helps the body absorb zinc. Garlic has repeatedly been shown to have antiviral properties. Onions, leeks, shallots, and other alliums also have sulfur. Fresh whole roasted garlic cloves are great spread on bread with butter or put in pasta sauce. If you are growing your own garlic you can harvest the unopened pointy flower buds or scapes to cook with. If you don’t like the taste of fresh garlic, try dried garlic flakes or garlic powder. Garlic powder is easy to add to ground beef, ground turkey, or tofu when making burgers or taco filling. If you cut slits in a roast before cooking, you can insert whole raw cloves or a mixture of rosemary and garlic minced together.
*Ginger decreases inflammation, decreases chronic pain, and relieves nausea. Ginger is incredibly easy to grow from a fresh piece bought at the grocery store and can be harvested year around. Powdered ginger works in a pinch, but fresh roots have way more flavor. Ginger is tasty in tea, stir fry or desserts. I especially like teriyaki beef, shitake mushrooms, and green beans cooked with sesame oil, ginger, and spicy chilies.
*Spinach is rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and beta carotene. Other dark leafy greens such as swiss chard are particularly good immune boosters as well. Spinach is excellent in Greek salad, lasagna, stir fry, stuffed manicotti, omelets, eggs benedict and quiche. Cooked or raw, leafy greens are extremely healthy. They are also easy to grow if you are willing to accept a few holes in those tasty leaves.
*Almonds are packed with vitamin E and the healthy fats necessary to digest the vitamin E. They also contain proteins, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, and niacin. While tree nuts are healthy, almonds are the most nutritious of all. Of course, whole almonds make great snacks and almond butter is easy to use to make a sandwich or eat on a graham cracker. Whole almonds and almond flour are easy to add to cookies and crusts. I also like to make pesto from basil, olive oil, parmesan (optional) and roasted almonds.
*Sunflower seed contain phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin B-6, selenium, and vitamin E, which are all great immune boosters. Roasted sunflowers seeds make a great snack, salad topping, or topping for some baked goods. Sunflower seed butter is fun to try and sunflower sprouts are a nutritious salad topping.
*Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties due to the curcumin it contains and is antiviral like goldenseal. Turmeric gives curry its distinctive yellow color and can be added to stews, rice, tofu, chicken or any curry recipe.
* Green tea is full of various antioxidants that increase immunity. It contains more antioxidants than black tea. Green tea can be drank hot or iced, added to smoothies or used to flavor desserts such as matcha cake.
*Blueberries contain vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, dietary fiber, and manganese. These tasty little immune boosters are good in smoothies, on salad, on pancakes, in crepes, on waffles or in baked goods. I really like lemon blueberry muffins. I have also been known to top a homemade cheesecake with raw fresh blueberries and huckleberries lightly mashed with honey.
*Kiwis contain folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K. These funny fuzzy fruits are tastiest when they have a slight give like a tomato or peach. Kiwis grow well in Humboldt, but you need to know that there are male and female plants; they both get huge and need a very sturdy trellis. If you choose to grow them, remember that you need to grow a male even though he will never produce fruit. I recommend kiwis fresh in a fruit salad or plain–just slice the very thin skin off with a paring knife and enjoy.
*Chicken meat is very high in vitamin B-6 that helps form healthy red blood cells, that’s why chicken soup is associated with ‘curing colds’. If you roast an entire chicken be sure to save the carcass, boil the bones, skin, and neck for 30 minutes and then simmer for 3-6 hours. This stock or bone broth can be made on a wood stove or other heater. Chicken stock made this way contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients good for healthy joints, intestines, and immune systems. This bone broth can be used to make gravies, sauces, soups, rice, cook noodles in and even drink plain if you are having joint problems.
*Wild caught salmon, tuna, or sardines are all remarkably high in vitamin D. Vitamin D is the most common deficiency in the world and yet it is the only vitamin our bodies can make. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, cell growth, controlling inflammation, healthy nervous system functions, and general immunity health. While we can get some vitamin D by sitting in the sunlight, our bodies usually need more. These fish and old-fashioned cod-liver oil supplements are natural sources. Salmon and albacore are great on sushi, on bagels, roasted, broiled or barbequed. Canned tuna is great in tuna salad sandwiches or with crackers. Sardines are tasty in Cesar salad dressing. We are blessed here on the Northcoast to have so much great wild caught fish, local oysters and other shellfish to bolster our immune systems.
*Mushrooms are incredibly rich in vitamin D as well. Mushrooms are not plants and do not do photosynthesis; instead they convert sunlight into vitamin D just like humans. Commercial white button mushrooms grown in the dark do not contain very much vitamin D, so I recommend portabellas, shitakes, maitakes, reishis, and chanterelles. Different kinds of mushrooms have different flavors and textures. Most mushrooms are tasty sautéed in butter or olive oil with onions. They can also be served in stir fries, on pizza, in gravy, with pot roast, or with pasta. If you don’t like the taste of mushrooms, you can dry them or buy dried ones and grind them into powder. Mushroom powder makes a flavorful addition to soup, sauce, gravy, rice, or burgers. I really enjoy baked stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer. Also, if you ever have an opportunity to try candy cap ice cream, I highly recommend trying this maple syrup flavored mushroom.
*Oregano is full of vitamin K, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants. Oregano has been shown to kill up to 23 types of bacteria and several viruses. Both fresh and dried oregano can speed up cellular healing. Oregano is amazingly easy to grow, so I suggest keeping a potted plant in the kitchen, on the porch, or near the kitchen door. Pinch off leaves and add whenever you cook pizza, marinara, calzones, garlic bread, beef stew or anything else that would be tasty with oregano. If you open up a jar of tomato sauce to pour on noodles, just add a little more fresh oregano to it as an easy immune booster.
Now I am very aware that many of these immune boosters seem expensive at the store, but they pack a lot of nutrition. I honestly believe that it is worth the extra money to get the healthier food. I find this food satisfying and nutritious, so I eat less. I hope these tips are helpful, my friends. Please share in the comments if my tips helped you or any tips that you have. What is your favorite recipe with these or other immune boosters? Until next week, enjoy some good food and garden fun.