Foods to Boost Our Immune System This Season!

Welcome to Week 2!

One of the fastest ways to add extra stress to the holiday season is to get sick! Of course, it happens sometimes despite our best efforts. But, knowing one of the best ways to boost the joy of the season is to feel good, we’re concentrating on foods to help boost our immune system and our health. Sleep, exercise, reducing extra stress and eating well all add up to a hearty immune defense.

Since approximately 70 % of of our immune system is in our intestines, the foods we eat can have a profound effect on how we feel. This week, we’re going to give special attention to one of aspect of our diets that can be most challenging especially when sweets and treats start popping up everywhere - Fruits and Vegetables!

Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. These phytochemicals better known as antioxidants help to give foods their color, flavor, smell and many of their health benefits. Antioxidants also help to stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, prevent DNA damage and even slow the growth rate of cancer cells.  

Fruits and vegetables containing Vitamins C, E, Beta Carotene, Selenium and Zinc are also particularly helpful in boosting the immune system! Here are a just a few that are great to add to your day.

Foods high in Vitamin C

Foods high in vitamin C are particularly helpful to boost white blood cells and help in the formation of cartilage and reduction of heart disease. And, people who eat the most foods containing vitamin C even tend to have younger looking skin. Because vitamin C is water soluble, be careful when you’re cooking it to not “cook the nutrients” out of it in water. Rather, try to steam or saute vegetables to keep the vitamin C in the foods. Here are some particularly high in vitamin C foods:

  • Berries, especially strawberries

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels Sprouts

  • Tomatoes

  • Papaya

  • Oranges

  • Bell Peppers

  • Kiwi

Foods high in vitamin E

Foods high in vitamin E are helpful in boosting the immune system but also in reducing the risk of dementia and heart disease. Unlike vitamin C, you do not have to worry about vitamin e leaching out in the cooking process. Vitamin E is most helpful in food form but not in supplement form. Here are some particularly high in vitamin E foods:

  • Broccoli

  • Carrots

  • Chard

  • Mangoes

  • Papaya

  • Red peppers

  • Spinach

  • Mustard Greens

Foods high in Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene eventually converts to vitamin A in our bodies. Vitamin A is particularly helpful in boosting the health of our skin, which is our largest organ and first line of defense for our immune system. In addition to its immune boosting power, it’s also helpful in the reduction of cardiovascular disease and reducing the risk of breast and lung cancer. Beta Carotene is fat soluble so pairing these fruits and vegetables with a healthy fat boosts its absorption in our bodies. Here are some foods high in Beta Carotene:

  • Apricots

  • Peaches

  • Broccoli

  • Mangoes

  • Kale

  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Spinach

  • Pumpkin

  • Asparagus

  • Carrots

Other Immune Enhancing Foods

These foods have some of the highest amounts of antioxidants in foods! Mushrooms are also packed with selenium and zinc. When eating apples or potatoes, be sure to consume the skin where 80 % of the nutrients are. One last food tip, garlic’s antimicrobial power increases as it oxidizes. So, to boost it’s immune boosting power, try to cut it up and leave it on the cutting board for 5 - 10 minutes before tossing it in your pan.

  • Dried plums

  • Apples

  • Potatoes

  • Red Grapes

  • Mushrooms

  • Artichoke Hearts

  • Cranberries

  • Garlic

  • Onion

You’ll notice that there is a lot of overlap between the different lists. So, for example, you’ll be getting lots of great nutrients in a single apple. Try not to get too worried about the nutrients but rather aim for lots of variety and different colors. You can’t go wrong!

Our week 2 challenge is to consume 7 - 8 servings per day of fruits and vegetables.

Think back to the food journal that we did on Saturday. How did you do on your fruit and veggie consumption? If you knocked it out the park, high five! Keep it up! If you didn’t, don’t worry. This just means there’s an opportunity for improvement!

If you’re thinking, I’ll never eat that in a day. Never fear! You can do it. Here’s a sample of what 8 servings may look like in a day:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal or Cereal with a 1/2 cup berries

  • Mid-morning snack: Banana or apple with almond butter

  • Lunch: Salad (3 cups of greens) with 1/4 cup tomatoes and 1/4 carrots and chick-peas

  • Mid-afternoon snacks: 1/2 cup sliced up red peppers with hummus

  • Dinner: Roasted salmon with 1/2 cup of broccoli and 1/2 cup of roasted butternut squash

  • Dessert: 1/2 Strawberries drizzled with dark chocolate

  • Snack: 2 clementines

See how easy that was? And, we actually consumed more than 8 servings with that sample day!

What's a serving of a fruit or veggie? In general, a serving size for medium apple is about the size of a tennis ball. For canned, frozen or fresh fruit or vegetables, a 1/2 cup is typically a serving size. For leafy greens, approximately 3 cups raw or a 1/2 cup cooked. 

As you aim for your 7 - 8 servings of fruits and vegetables this week, aim to have variety, different colors and try to include foods from the above categories when you can. Bon Appetit!

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All material provided here is for informational or educational purposes only. Please consult your physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition. Use or reproduction of text or photographs is prohibited without written permission from WellStyles Consulting®.