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Top immunity foods for cold and flu season
When it comes to avoiding bugs, washing your hands is a no-brainer. But what about the foods you eat? Research shows certain foods enhance immunity; others compromise defenses. Regularly eating these seven foods not only lowers your risk for catching colds and flu; it also contributes to disease prevention and longevity.
This onion relative offers antioxidant flavonoids and sulfur-containing compounds like allicin, which combat oxidative stress and inflammation. Eating garlic helps the immune system make more white blood cells and natural killer cells, says Bob Sears, MD, coauthor of the Sears Parenting Library books.
Get more: When you chop garlic, the cell walls break, activating beneficial enzymes. Before heating, allow chopped garlic to rest for five minutes. Aim for two cloves daily: Mince and add to salad dressings; pure with garbanzos, tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil for hummus. Or try Garlicky Greens with Lemon.
Garlicky Greens with Lemon
- Serves:4 people
- Calories per serving:31
Leafy greens are high in chlorophyll, crucial for protecting the liver and ridding the body of toxins. They’re also rich in nutritious antioxidants called carotenoids. An ample dose of garlic boosts circulation and increases liver enzymes that remove toxins.
- 1/2 cuplow-sodium vegetable broth
- 3 clovesgarlic(minced or pressed)
- 2 cupschopped kale leaves((stems discarded))
- 2 cupschopped escarole or curly endive
- 2 cupschopped Swish chard leaves and stems
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Place broth and garlic in a large saut pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until broth is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add kale and escarole (or endive); stir to mix and cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add chard and cook until just tender, 1-2 minutes. Toss in lemon zest and serve immediately.
PER SERVING: 31 cal, 9% fat cal, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg chol, 2g protein, 6g carb, 2g fiber, 76mg sodium
Join the majority of the world’s people who sip tea all day, not just at teatime.
All teas offer health benefits, but green tea has more polyphenols-antioxidants also found in vegetables, coffee, and red wine. In a newly published survey, Japanese students who drank 1-5 cups daily were considerably less likely to get the flu than those who didn’t drink tea.
Get more: Fill a thermos with green tea and sip at your desk; mix with bubbly water and a bit of stevia for “soda.” Or try Green Tea Granita with Ginger and Citrus.
Green Tea Granita with Ginger and Citrus
- Serves:4 people
- Calories per serving:79
This sweet treat is packed with immune-enhancing green tea, oranges, lemons, and ginger. And it’s a great way to soothe a dry throat. For kids, try making it with decaffeinated tea and freezing the mixture in Popsicle molds.
- 1/2 cupwater
- 3 bagsgreen tea
- 1 tablespoonminced fresh ginger
- 1 cupfresh orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoonfreshly grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoonsfresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoonfreshly grated lemon zest
- 3 tablespoonshoney(or to taste)
- Heat water to nearly boiling. Steep tea bags in hot water for 2 minutes. Discard bags and let tea cool.
- Press minced ginger through a clean garlic press, catching ginger juice in a medium bowl. Discard remaining ginger solids.
- Add cooled tea and remaining ingredients to ginger juice; stir. Adjust sweetness if necessary. Pour mixture into an 8×8-inch shallow pan and place in freezer. Fluff ingredients with a fork every 30 minutes or until the mixture is icy and fluffy, about 2-1/2 hours.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 79 calories, % fat calories: 2, Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g,Cholesterol: 0mg,Protein: 1g,Carbohydrate: 21g,Fiber: 0g, Sodium: 2mg
Kale This crucifer offers more vitamin C than almost any other dark leafy green. Although C may not prevent you from getting sick if exposed to a virus, research indicates it can reduce an infection’s symptoms and duration.
Get more: Steam kale for five minutes and toss with lemon juice, flaxseed oil, and cayenne; add to soups and pastas. Aim for two to three servings of C-rich fresh produce daily. Try this recipe: Toasted Quinoa with Kale and Pine Nuts.
Toasted Quinoa with Kale and Pine Nuts
- Cook Time:32 mins
- Serves:4 people
- Calories per serving:329
Toasting quinoa and starting its cooking with boiling water help grains to cook up fluffy and separate.
- 1 cup quinoa(washed and drained)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil(divided)
- 1 3/4 cups boiling water
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 4 cups lightly packed chopped kale leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup pine nuts(toasted)
- Salt and pepper(to taste)
- Dry-toast quinoa in a skillet, stirring until golden and fragrant, about 6 minutes.
- Transfer to a medium saucepan; add sea salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and boiling water.
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes; then fluff with a fork.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, add remaining olive oil and garlic; saut 30 seconds. Add kale; saut until deep green and tender, 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in cooked quinoa, lemon juice, pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste.
Per serving: 329 cal, 16g fat (8g mono, 6g poly, 2g sat), 0mg chol, 10g protein, 36g carb, 5g fiber, 319mg sodium
Although exotic shiitakes and maitakes have garnered most of the immunity spotlight, recent research shows button-type mushrooms offer similar benefits. In a study conducted with Yale School of Medicine, Japanese scientists found that supplementing with an extract of several mushroom species increased cancer-fighting cells in study subjects after just four weeks. Researchers aren’t sure if eating mushrooms has the same effect, but they are a very good source of immune-boosting minerals, including zinc.
Get more: Refrigerate mushrooms to preserve nutrients. Saut chopped mushrooms with garlic and toss into omelets; add to miso soup or pasta sauce.
Along with apples and nuts, oats are a good source of soluble fiber, which preliminary research shows stimulates production of the anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-4, bolstering immunity. Polysaccharides called beta-glucans, found in oats, barley, mushrooms, and baker’s yeast, also help immune cells fight bacteria and viruses.
Get more: Start your day with rolled or steel-cut oats with chopped apples and nuts; add oats to baked goods. Adults should aim for 20-30 grams of fiber daily.
Along with oysters, chickpeas, eggs, and red meat, pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, an essential mineral for cellular functions, including immune cell production. Even mild zinc deficiency can suppress immunity.
Get more: Add pumpkin seeds to salads, granola, and oatmeal cookies; grind seeds and add to burgers. Or try this delicious Pumpkin Seed Spread.
Pumpkin Seed Spread
Makes 1 cup / This orange-scented spread is a festive, flavorful alternative to butter, with zero saturated fat. It’s fantastic on the Quinoa-Corn Muffins.
- 1 mediumcarrot(peeled and cut into -inch rounds)
- 1/2 cupraw pumpkin seeds
- 6 ouncesfirm silken tofu(drained)
- 1 1/2 tablespoonshoney
- 1/2 teaspoonsea salt
- 1/2 teaspoonorange zest(finely grated )
- 1/8 teaspoonground cinnamon
- Boil or steam carrot until very tender. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds and toast, stirring or shaking pan frequently, until seeds turn from green to brown and begin to pop. Pour seeds into a food processor. Let cool briefly until merely warm. Process seeds into a fine powder.
- Add carrot, tofu, honey, salt, orange zest, and cinnamon to food processor. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl a few times.
PER SERVING (1 tablespoon): 37 cal, 51% fat cal, 2g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg chol, 2g protein, 3g carb, 0g fiber, 78mg sodium
Probiotics in yogurt have been shown to reduce a cold’s duration and severity and increase flu-vaccine effectiveness.
Get more: Choose low-sugar yogurts and kefirs-you can even make your own. Stir a bit of jam or honey into plain yogurt; add kefir to smoothies; substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream on tacos or in dips.
- Heat 1 quart milk (cow’s, goat’s, soy, or rice) slowly to near boiling, about 185 degrees. Stir frequently to prevent scalding.
- 1/2 cupraw pumpkin seeds
- Cool milk to about 112 degrees.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons room-temperature plain yogurt, or one packet of freeze-dried yogurt starter, and stir. For thicker yogurt, add – cup nonfat powdered milk (optional).
- Incubate yogurt at 108-112 degrees for four to eight hours. Use a towel-covered heating pad set on medium (or an electric yogurt maker) to keep temperature steady. The longer it sits, the firmer and tangier the yogurt becomes.
- Stir yogurt and pour into sterilized glass jars.
- Refrigerate for 12 hours to stop acid development; it will keep for a week refrigerated. Eat plain or add your favorite fruit or sweetener. Then use some of the homemade yogurt as starter for your next batch.