It’s that time of year, when families come together for Holidays meals, parties, and occasions. Keeping your immune system healthy is important during this wonderful time of year. Here are 5 Superfoods easily incorporated into your diet to make sure you stay sniffle-free this holiday season.
5. Garlic: Healthy for your heart, not so good for your breath.
Garlic is an herb and flavoring for foods which produces a chemical called Allicin. Allicin causes the strong flavoring and smell of garlic smell. Garlic has been used to fight infection for thousands of years. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed garlic for a wide range of conditions and illnesses including respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue (1). Additionally, garlic has been used in a variety of health conditions including heart disease and cancer prevention. 2012 guidelines published in American Family Physician reported that prophylactic use (using with the intention of preventing disease) of garlic may decrease the frequency of colds in adults, but has no effect on the duration of symptoms (2).”
Skylar’s tip: Aim for 2 cloves per day and add crushed garlic to cooking a few times per week. Add garlic (pureed or slices), and a sprinkle of salt to olive oil for salad dressing or dipping oil for bread. Do not pan-fry for an extended period of time at a high temperature as a bitter flavor may develop.
4. Mushrooms: Versatile nutrient powerhouse.
Mushrooms are the only produce that contains significant amounts of Selenium. Selenium in mushrooms helps prevent cell damage. Mushrooms also contain copper, which aids in the production of red blood cells. Research supports the use of select medicinal mushrooms for their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-enhancing properties. Button mushrooms contain B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, which play a role in a healthy immune system. Of course, not all mushrooms are created equal. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends seeking out the more exotic varieties, becoming increasingly available on supermarket shelves including Shiitake (fresh and dried), Enoki, Maitake, Reishi, and Oyster mushrooms (3).
Skylar’s tip: Try ¼ ounce to an ounce a few times a day for maximum immune benefits. Try adding them to pasta sauce, or sauteed in olive oil (and garlic)! Check with your general practitioner to be sure that it is medically safe for you to consume various types of mushrooms.
3. Sweet potatoes: This season’s staple.
Sweet potatoes are a dietitian’s dream. In addition to sweet potatoes large amount of fiber, they are packed with beta-carotene which turns into Vitamin A in your body. Other sources of beta-carotene include carrots, squash, canned pumpkin, and cantaloupe. In the U.S., we use “sweet potato” Vitamin A keeps skin healthy by playing a major role in connective tissue development. Where do skin and immune system connect you ask? You skin is your first line of defense when it comes to bacteria and viruses. In the United State we use the word “yam” to mean the same as sweet potatoes, but yams are actually a completely different species, native to Africa and Asia.
Skylar’s Tip: Make your own sweet potato chips (kids will love this!) with 2-3 sweet potatoes (washed), 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, Salt, and garlic. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Prepare the sweet potatoes by making slices about 1/8″ thick. Coat sweet potatoes with oil and seasonings tossed in a bowl. Spread the slices in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Turn halfway through the baking time.
After cooking, spread the baked chips on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
2. Cabbage: An inexpensive and easy superfood.
Like other members of the cruciferous vegetable family including broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, cabbage contains sulfur-containing antioxidant compounds known as glucosinolates. Additionally, cabbage is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber while being low in calories; ½ cup will provide nearly half of your daily recommended serving of vitamin C and less than 20 calories. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to reduce harmful free radicals that can be present in the body due to pollution, food additives. All types of cabbage can cause gas and abdominal discomfort in some people, especially those with digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome. If this is a concern, talk to your doctor about ways to include cabbage in your diet.
Skylar’s tip: Try adding cabbages of any variety (white, red, Chinese) to soups and stews. Replace lettuce on sour sandwich with a slice of cabbage.
1. Purslane: An edible weed!
To often a forgotten salad addition, purslane is an excellent source of Omega 3’s. Omega-3’s have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. By eating the stem and leaves of the plant you can absorb the high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids the plant contains. Additionally, Purslane is also a source of Vitamin A, C, K, magnesium, potassium and iron. Purslane has a presence in various cultures. Greeks call it andrakla and they fry the purslane plant with feta, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano and olive oil. Purslane is popular in certain Indian states and Latin American countries. Purslane is used by the French as a salad green, and is occasionally referred to as “Mexican parsley.” Purslane has a mild taste, similar to spinach or watercress but is not as bitter as kale or Swiss chard.
Skylar’s tip: Add purslane to your salad a few times per week with olive oil, slivered almonds, tomato and 1 Tbsp of goat cheese. Yum!
Other tips to keep your immune system on track:
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke.
- Control blood pressure.
- Wash your hands.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Get regular medical screening tests.
- Richard S. Rivlin. “Historical Perspective on the Use of Garlic.” J. Nutr. 2001 Marc 1;131(3):951S-954S. Accessed November 8, 2013.
- Fashner J, Ericson, K. “Treatment of the Common Cold in Children and Adults.” Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jul 15;86(2):153-159. Accessedd November 8, 2013.
- McMillen, M. WebMD Feature. Mushrooms: What’s Edible, Medicinal, and Psychedelic. What to know about the health benefits — and risks — of mushrooms. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/types-of-mushrooms.
- Child photo: http://www.savvysassymoms.com/blog/beautiful-holiday-cards-paperculture-giveaway