It’s cold and flu season again. A strong immune system is one of our best defenses against winter germs. You don’t have to look any further than your kitchen to boost your immunity. Adequate protein, vitamins A, C, E, B6 and folate, and minerals zinc, selenium, iron and copper are very important for optimal immune function. In order to serve them up to yourself the next time you make a plate, heere are some great options:
1. Vegetable Omelet
Eggs are an inexpensive form of very high quality lean protein. An omelet with a vegetable such as broccoli will provide protein, selenium, vitamin C and folate, while a mushroom omelet will provide protein, copper, selenium and zinc.
The specific vegetable does not matter, as most vegetables contain an array of necessary vitamins and minerals. Better yet, mix and match the vegetables or choose a different colored vegetable each time to get a variety of beneficial nutrients.
2. Dreamy Oatmeal
A bowl of warm oatmeal can be extremely comforting on a frosty day. Adding spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice or cardamom and a touch of honey make for a luxurious breakfast. Oatmeal itself provides copper, zinc and some protein.
Stir in chopped apple for vitamin C and top with a blend of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds for additional copper, zinc, iron, vitamin E and vitamin B6.
3. Festive Fruit Salad
It can be hard to eat cold fruit in the winter when it’s frigid outside. However, fruits provide a host of vitamins and can be incredibly refreshing and give us some pep when all we want to do is curl up in a blanket. A zesty citrus salad with oranges and grapefruit provides vitamin C. Adding some spinach makes a delicious side for any entrée and gives us vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin E, iron, and additional vitamin C. Bananas are a great on-the-go snack and provide vitamin B6. A winter fruit salad with apples, pears, grapes, and oranges gives us copper and lots of vitamin C.
4. Warm Soup
As a winter soup, chicken soup always reigns supreme! A steamy bowl of chicken soup with carrots, celery, and onions provides lean protein, iron, selenium and vitamin B6 from the chicken, and vitamin A, copper and B6 from the vegetables.
A bowl of delicious minestrone soup with beans, tomatoes and carrots gives us folate, copper, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B6.
Another winter favorite, beef with barley, is chock full of iron, selenium and copper. With soup, the variations are endless.
It’s very simple to make a homemade soup. Start with a low-sodium broth of your choice and add classic vegetables like carrots and onions, or try something different by adding cauliflower, winter squash, sweet potatoes, kale or broccoli. You can keep it vegetarian or boost the iron by adding beans or a little animal protein such as chicken, turkey, beef or even fish.
Although there is no magic pill to guarantee we won’t ever get sick in the winter, taking the necessary steps to remain healthy and keep our immune systems in tip-top shape are very important to prevent and fight ailments.
Incorporating one or more of the above strategies will give us the nutrients our immune systems rely on to keep us
healthy so we can be our best during the semester.