Eating, Colorfully, is the Best Medicine
Arm yourself this cold and flu season with nature’s best defense – colorful food. It’s well known that fruits and vegetables boost the body’s immune system so it can fight off infections as well as help prevent chronic disease, such as heart disease and cancer. Eating 5-8 servings a day of all types of fruit and vegetables is recommended for overall good health, but adding the following super foods to your daily meals will help keep your immune system working in top form:
- Vitamin C – Tops the list of immune boosters. It’s a strong antioxidant and is widely available in many fruits and vegetables. Rich sources are berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, green or yellow peppers, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes. To get the most antioxidant benefit, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed; don’t overcook or boil.
- Vitamin E – Also an antioxidant, not only boosts your immune system, but also may reverse some of the decline in immune response seen in aging and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Food sources are sunflower seeds, nuts, broccoli, carrots, all dark leafy greens, and vegetable oils. A supplement may be necessary to get enough to boost your immune system.
- Beta-carotene and other carotenoids – powerful antioxidants that increase the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and helper T-cells. They also mop up excess free radicals that damage cells and accelerate aging. The body converts beta carotene to Vitamin A and since Vitamin A can be toxic in high doses; it’s better to get extra beta carotene from foods instead of a Vitamin A supplement. Carotenoids are found in yellow, orange and red colored fruits and vegetables and include: apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon. Again, don’t overcook.
- Glutathione – another powerful antioxidant that may boost immune strength. It is most plentiful in the red, pulpy area of the watermelon near the rind. Glutathione is also found in cruciferous vegetables like kale, collard greens, broccoli, and cabbage.
- Flavenoids – a class of phytonutrients (or plant chemicals) that aids the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against environmental pollutants. The soft white skin of citrus fruit (grapefruit, oranges, limes, and lemons) contains an abundance of flavonoids.
Although not found in fruits and vegetables, there are two minerals that offer added protection against colds and flu:
- Zinc – it increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively. Zinc is especially important for elderly people who are often deficient in zinc and have weakened immune systems. Good sources of zinc are found in oysters, crab, beef, dark meat turkey and dried beans. Some cereals may also be fortifies with zinc.
- Selenium – it increases natural killer cells and mobilizes cancer-fighting cells. Best food sources of selenium are tuna, red snapper, lobster, shrimp, whole grains, vegetables (depending on the selenium content of the soil they’re grown in), brown rice, egg yolks, cottage cheese, chicken (white meat), sunflower seeds, garlic, Brazil nuts, and lamb chops.
As flu season quickly approaches, my professional advice is to head out to your supermarket‘s produce section, the famers market or your favorite salad bar and begin mounting your defense against the flu this season and every season to come. Stay well.