In the last two years, Americans have become more interested in “functional foods” to boost their immune systems. Unfortunately, there is no one magic food that will make you invincible to colds, flu, and COVID. Over the long run, though, two eating habits can cut your risk of catching contagious illnesses.
Limit foods high in sugar, salt, and/or saturated fat. Too much of these can keep your white blood cells from working as well as they should. Drink water, unsweetened tea, or milk more often instead of pop. Snack on fruits or vegetables; choose baked chips over regular; enjoy whole grain granola bars over cookies. Eat baked or grilled meats instead of fried.
Aim for at least 4–5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Fruits and vegetables are the main source of the vitamins and minerals you need to resist illnesses. For example, the tomatoes and kale in this month’s soup recipe give you lots of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. The lentils are rich in zinc, which is also important to immune health.
Interested in finding out more about foods and health habits that strengthen your immune system? Visit Today’s Dietitian, www.todaysdietitian.com, to read an excerpt from The Family Immunity Cookbook.
As we transition from winter to spring, many fruits and vegetables—like asparagus and strawberries—start to be in season! It is very important to remember to wash fresh produce prior to eating in order to remove any harmful bacteria like E. coli or listeria. The next time you reach for a fruit or vegetable, use these strategies to ensure it’s clean and fresh:
Wash your produce immediately before eating. Washing some produce—like berries—before storing actually hastens spoilage.
Wash all produce in cold water; do not use detergents or soap to clean the outside of your fruit.
Try using a vegetable brush for fruits and vegetables that have a thick skin.
Produce that has tiny nooks and crannies—like cauliflower and broccoli—should be soaked in cold, clean water for one to two minutes.
You don’t need to rewash products that are labeled “ready to eat” or “triple washed.”
For visual demonstrations of other ways to select, store, and prepare food, check out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/videos).
Asparagus, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and strawberries are just a few of the fresh fruits and vegetables available in June! They provide a range of colors to eat and enjoy. It’s important to get a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet every day.
Colorful fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds in food that your body uses to maintain good health and energy levels, protect against the effects of aging, and reduce the risk of some types of cancer and heart disease.
Phytochemicals may be considered just as important as protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Many of the phytochemicals and other compounds that make fruits and vegetables good for us also give them their color. It’s important to eat the rainbow of colors every day to get the full health-promoting benefits of fruits and vegetables.
When planning meals, try to use colorful fruits and vegetables. Usually the darker the color, the higher the amounts of phytochemicals. When introducing children to a new fruit or vegetable, consider designating a color for each day or week.