Immune Boosting Superfoods To Keep You Healthy During Flu Season
BY LIZZY SMITH (As always, before changing your diet, consult with your doctor. Depending where you are in your treatment protocol, some foods or supplements may interfere with certain medications.) Flu season is upon us and I am personally dreading it. I somehow manage to get colds every six weeks, it seems. But this year I’m on a mission to do everything possible to help my body naturally fight off those germs. And one of the ways I plan to do it is by boosting my immune system with the foods I eat. How to do that? I did my research and made my list. I’ve always known about superfoods that are high in antioxidants, which boosts our power to fight off illnesses. But if you had asked me for a comprehensive list, I would have scratched my head. Colorful veggies and, yes, um… ? There’s a lot more to it that includes spices and teas, too. I’m not a big meat eater, to be honest, but I’m a huge fan of seafood and fish and there’s plenty of those to keep me satiated. Plus, I can add garlic and grilled veggies, and flavor it with, say, cayenne pepper to make it a super nutritional, immune boosting meal (delicious, too). Add a side of black beans and, wow, I’m hungry just thinking about it. The bottom line is that there are enough options to keep even the pickiest eaters happy (that includes my children). If there’s something that I hate (and, really, I only hate peas, lima beans, chicken on the bone, and raisins, none of which are on my superfoods list), I’ll pick something else. Eating out is always my biggest challenge but at almost every restaurant, there are always salads (go light on the dressings; I personally like balsamic vinegar and olive oil), grilled chicken or fish, and steamed veggies. No joke, I went to Cheesecake Factory not too long ago and I ordered steamed broccoli, steamed asparagus, and a side of mashed potatoes that I split with my daughter (ok, I confess—I also split a slice of cheesecake). Actually, my lunch choice was delicious and I was really full before a started in on the cheesecake. Ok, enough about that. Let’s get to that shopping list. I’ll buy as much organic, farm raised, locally grown stuff as possible. It’s always good to support the healthy foods industry, in my opinion. Fruits & Veggies: You simply can’t go wrong with eating lots of fresh produce, and the more colorful, the better. Raw or lightly steamed is best, though grilling or broiling are also good options. Warning: if you boil them, know that you’ll be dumping most of the nutrients down the drain along with the leftover water. Here are some of the most anti-inflammatory fruits and veggies that pack a real nutritional punch:
- Red bell peppers
- Berries (blueberries, strawberries)
- Citrus fruits, like oranges
- Sweet potatoes
- Brussel sprouts
- Collard greens
Meat, Poultry, Seafood
- Turkey (dark meat)
- Red snapper
- Chicken (white meat)
- Lamb chops
Zinc-fortified cereals (check out the sugar content carefully, organic high quality cereals are best) Whole grains (warning: whole wheat is not the same as “whole grain”) Brown rice Sunflower seeds Brazil nuts Eggs Cottage cheese Beans (black and garbanzo) Yogurt (plain yogurts are best, many have loads of sugar or sucralose, food coloring, and other yucky stuff that actually weaken your immune system) Cranberries (dried cranberries are a great option; try eating them plain, putting them in salads or cereals) Chicken soup (a great idea is to make your own using organic chicken broth and lots of immune boosting veggies from the list above) Ginger (ginger tea is delicious; I use ginger essential oils and rub it on the bottom of my feet every night before I go to bed) Garlic (yum! If I am grilling, baking, using the crockpot, or broiling, you can be sure there’s lots of fresh garlic in there) Cayenne pepper (you can add cayenne to tomato juice, use to flavor guacamole or meats, or even lightly sprinkle over veggies) Honey Flax oil (try adding a few tablespoons to a fresh smoothie, it’s tasteless) Chamomile tea Green tea Supplements
- Vitamin C (200 mg per day is adequate. You’ll get this amount simply be eating at least six servings of fruits and veggies per day. If you take supplements, space them throughout the day. Otherwise, you’ll pee out much of the vitamin).
- Vitamin E (100-400 mg per day): Vitamin E stimulates the production of natural killer cells, which seeks out and destroys germs and cancer cells. It’s not easy to get an adequate supply with just proper nutrition so a supplement is a good idea.
By arming our bodies with the right nutrients, we enable it to do its job better. And we have a much better chance of staying healthy, or at least healthier than we would otherwise.