I’m a big believer that what we eat makes a difference in our health, including our immune systems. With all the concern over the coronavirus, here’s a look at some foods that can boost our immunity.
While there are no magic foods, certain foods can affect how weak or strong our immune system is. And there’s no better time to give yours a boost.
» Think fruits and vegetables, and eat them every day. Produce contains key vitamins involved in the immune system. The vitamin C in foods like strawberries, bell peppers, potatoes, broccoli and citrus helps the immune system function. Vitamin A, also found in produce, keeps tissues in the mouth, intestines and respiratory tract healthy. Foods high in vitamin A include sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots and cantaloupe.
» Protein also helps boost our immune system by supplying the amino acids needed to build essential proteins, including antibodies. Beef, pork and chicken are good sources, as well as beans, peas, Greek yogurt, milk and nuts.
» Add fermented foods that help provide good gut bacteria. Your gut is where a lot of cells involved in immunity live. Fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha (a fermented tea). The more good bacteria in the gut, the less room for harmful bugs.
» Use spices liberally. Spices and seasonings like garlic, ginger, oregano and cinnamon are considered anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants. Adding these ingredients to foods gives you more flavor and adds beneficial compounds to meals.
The bottom line? Eat the rainbow, with lots of variety and plenty of whole foods. It’s always best to get your nutrients from foods rather than supplements, because whole foods offer an entire package of nutrients.
Q: Why are we seeing lower calorie counts on the nutrition labels for nut products?
A: A series of studies over the past few years by the Agriculture Department found that walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios have anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent less calories than once thought, depending on the nut and whether it’s whole, roasted or chopped, according to the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Researchers have found that some of the fat, carbohydrates and protein in nuts pass through the intestines undigested, so not all their calories are absorbed.
Whole-Wheat Strawberry Muffins
Here’s a healthier muffin for a quick breakfast in the morning. It’s from Eating Well magazine.
» 1½ cups unsweetened applesauce
» 1 cup granulated sugar
» ½ cup canola oil
» 3 cups white whole-wheat flour
» 2¼ teaspoons baking soda
» ¾ teaspoon salt
» 2 cups chopped strawberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 (½-cup) muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk applesauce, sugar and oil in a large bowl. Add flour, baking soda and salt; whisk until combined. Gently fold in strawberries.
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake the muffins until the tops spring back when touched lightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 28 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Serves 18 (1 muffin each)
Per muffin: 179 calories; 3 grams protein; 30 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams total sugars (11 grams added); 6 grams fat; 3 grams fiber; 255 milligrams sodium
— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.