Food Choices to Give You a Fighting Chance This Cold and Flu Season
As the temperature continues dropping and the days get shorter, it becomes more challenging to make healthy food choices.
Cold and flu bugs seem to be everywhere, and it’s this time of the year when our bodies really could use the extra immune-boosting vitamins and minerals found in healthy foods.
While eating healthy is no guarantee for an illness-free winter, bringing the good nutrients in this list can give your body its best fighting chance.
White blood cells flow through our bloodstream, all the while fighting bacteria, viruses and other foreign invaders. Vitamin C helps keep white blood cells strong and healthy, so it’s an essential nutrient for a good immune system. Good sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, broccoli, grapefruit, strawberries and kohlrabi. Most if not all are available this time of year as well.
Our bodies turn this pro-vitamin into active vitamin A when we ingest it, and getting enough beta-carotene can increase the number of white blood cells as well as their activity. Paprika, cayenne pepper, sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach, as well as pumpkin, all are great foods to get more of this vital vitamin-like material.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract serves as a barrier against disease-causing germs and microorganisms. When we have a healthy GI tract, full of beneficial and protective probiotics, we’re less likely to face disease-causing germs, as they won’t make it past the GI tract and into the bloodstream. Dig in on yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut to pack probiotics into your system.
Zinc activates T-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Since our bodies don’t do well storing zinc, it’s important that we consume it regularly. If you enjoy oysters, sesame seeds, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds and fortified ready-to-eat cereals regularly, you’ll be helping to get those infection fighters in your blood ready to do their work.
Limited Sugar and Fat
The holiday season brings a constant stream of baked goods and sweets. But unfortunately these treats are packed sugar and fat and these inflammatory food elements do not help us stay healthy. When our bodies spend too much time dealing with inflammation from poor food choices, they are more easily overwhelmed by bacteria and viruses.
Try this immune-boosting feast of beef and sweet potatoes paired with steamed or roasted broccoli.
Beefy Sweet Potato Hash
- 12 ounces cooked beef (steak, roast or pot roast) cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 large sweet potato, unpeeled, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Combine sweet potatoes, onion and taco seasoning in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add water. Cover and cook 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender and water has almost evaporated, stirring once.
- Stir in oil; continue cooking uncovered for 4 to 6 minutes or until potatoes are tender and begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Combine yogurt and hot sauce in small bowl. Set aside.
- Add beef to potato mixture, and continue to cook 5 minutes or until beef is heated through, stirring occasionally. You can add 1-2 tablespoons water if needed to avoid sticking. Garnish with cilantro, as desired. Serve with prepared yogurt sauce.