The Preventive Plate: Eating to Boost Immunity
We all know how unpleasant a runny nose, body aches, congestion, chafed nostrils and that overall yucky feeling can be. Getting a flu shot, keeping up with needed hand washing throughout the day and prioritizing sleep can go a long way toward fending off unwelcome viral invaders that cause colds and flu, but what else can families do to boost immunity and stay well?
The foods we eat can help protect us from whatever is going around. Beware of claims however for immune – boosting supplements featuring specific vitamins and minerals. There is no specific nutrient which can single handedly strengthen our immune system. This is why a balanced diet, rich in ALL needed immune- boosting nutrients (protein, certain vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids) is so important. Not surprisingly, basic (real) foods make the list.
Foods which provide protein (needed for the production of antibodies and to support a functioning immune response)
Seafood (shellfish, cod, wild caught salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.)
Beef (in addition to protein, beef is also a rich source of zinc, which is a key player in immune function and may help to reduce upper respiratory infection.
Kidney beans and chick peas...(also a significant source of zinc)
Cruciferous veggies (loaded with immune boosting antioxidants)
Turnips (including the greens)
Other (non-cruciferous) veggies and herbs….and even fungi (packed with plant compounds that support immunity)
What about Chicken Soup?
When our most diligent hand washing efforts, along with eating well and getting adequate sleep is not enough, there is comfort in a steaming bowl of home - made chicken soup. Modern day researchers at the Nebraska Medical Center have studied this tasty concoction and have confirmed what 12th century Egyptian Jewish physician Maimonides documented: that chicken soup does in fact seem to improve upper respiratory symptoms (Chest Journal, 118:4, 2000).
Start with a good basic chicken soup recipe (my tried and true version is below). Then feel free to toss in extra veggies that you may need to use up such as chopped kale and sweet potato. Top with a garnish of snipped foliage from fresh carrots.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, chopped into small cubes
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
Medium onion, OR one bunch of green onions, finely chopped,
3 to 4 large cloves of garlic (crushed or pressed), OR 2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 cups cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
1 to 1 ½ cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
32 ounces organic chicken broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
Basil (pinch if using dried basil, or several small snips of fresh basil)
Heat olive oil in large pot. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Sautee until veggies are crisp tender.
Add chicken broth, water and cabbage (and any additional veggies that you may decide to toss in). Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the cooked chicken, salt, pepper and basil. Continue to simmer for additional 10 to 15 minutes.
Garnish with snipped carrot greens (optional)