Foods that can boost your im­mu­nity

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - GRINDS -

With the cold and flu sea­son at its peak right now, we need to be vig­i­lant about keep­ing healthy and boost­ing our im­mu­nity against these viruses.

The foods we eat are a source of en­ergy to fuel ev­ery cell in our bod­ies. They pro­vide nu­tri­ents for phys­i­cal growth and re­pair and en­able our bod­ies to pro­duce a variety of sub­stances, such as en­zymes, hor­mones and neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that are es­sen­tial for our bod­ies to func­tion. We can help fight viruses by eat­ing healthy and let­ting food be our medicine.

The Healthy Eat­ing Pyra­mid sug­gests we eat six to 11 serv­ings of un­re­fined starchy foods such as brown rice, beans, root veg­eta­bles, ba­nanas, whole grains and foods made from whole grain, such as whole-grain bread and pasta. Com­plex car­bo­hy­drates are a ready source of en­ergy and con­tain vi­ta­mins and min­er­als.

We should eat at least three to five daily serv­ings of veg­eta­bles and two to four serv­ings of fruits. Choose fruits and veg­eta­bles with a range of colors be­cause dif­fer­ent plant pig­ments of­fer dif­fer­ent health ben­e­fits. Fruits and veg­eta­bles sup­ply fiber, min­er­als and some es­sen­tial fatty acids.

Eat­ing four to six daily serv­ings of pro­tein-rich foods, which in­clude poul­try, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy prod­ucts, lean meat, nuts, beans and bean prod­ucts such as tofu, is needed for cell growth and re­pair and the pro­duc­tion of an­ti­bod­ies, hor­mones and en­zymes.

We should re­strict our fat in­take to no more than 30 per­cent of our to­tal calo­ries. This in­cludes fats hid­den in foods and used for cook­ing. Fatty salmon and ahi is good and bet­ter than the fat from meat. Good fats pro­vide fatty acids that are vi­tal for cell struc­ture and con­tain fat-sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins.

Sweets should be only an oc­ca­sional treat. A lit­tle honey or maple syrup is bet­ter than white sugar to sweeten foods. Sweet foods pro­vide quick en­ergy and some­times trace amounts of min­er­als.

There are spe­cific items in foods that are great to build your im­mu­nity against viruses.

Zinc is a min­eral that keeps the im­mune sys­tem strong, helps heal wounds and sup­ports nor­mal growth. Stud­ies found that tak­ing a zinc lozenge can re­duce the du­ra­tion of a cold, per­haps as much as 50 per­cent, and can re­duce the num­ber of up­per res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions in chil­dren. Here in Amer­ica, we don’t have zinc de­fi­cien­cies like in poor coun­tries as foods rich in zinc in­clude oys­ters, beef, lamb, toasted wheat germ, spinach, pump­kin seeds, squash seeds, nuts, dark choco­late, pork, chicken, beans and mush­rooms. How­ever, lac­tat­ing

and preg­nant women, ado­les­cents, in­fants and chil­dren have in­creased re­quire­ments so might need to take sup­ple­ments of zinc. The cur­rent rec­om­mended daily amount of zinc is 15 mg.

Sul­fur is a min­eral crit­i­cal to the hu­man body. It helps build amino acids and vi­ta­mins and is crit­i­cal to healthy de­vel­op­ment of skin, bones, nerve cells and other tis­sues. It main­tains car­dio­vas­cu­lar, joint and liver health and can help pre­vent can­cer. The three top sul­fur-rich foods are mush­rooms, onions and cru­cif­er­ous veg­eta­bles such as cab­bage and kale. Garlic also con­tains sul­fur, which helps our body bet­ter ab­sorb the zinc in foods.

Vi­ta­min D foods in­clude shi­itake mush­rooms, Ha­makua mush­rooms, oys­ter mush­rooms and but­ton mush­rooms. A 3-ounce serv­ing of salmon, her­ring, sar­dines, ahi or catfish can pro­vide you with 90 per­cent of your rec­om­mended daily amount of Vi­ta­min D. Eggs pro­vide 21 per­cent of your Vi­ta­min D needs.

But thank good­ness we live in Hawaii, as sun­shine can help your body in­crease Vi­ta­min D lev­els. When sun­shine hits the skin, it stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of Vi­ta­min D from choles­terol.

There are a lot of stud­ies about Vi­ta­min C, but the find­ings are not con­sis­tent. Over­all, ex­perts find lit­tle to no ben­e­fit in Vi­ta­min C pre­vent­ing or treat­ing a cold.

How­ever, a de­fi­ciency of Vi­ta­min C re­sults in a re­duced re­sis­tance againest cer­tain pathogens, so it’s been found that Vi­ta­min C can help to pre­vent more se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions, which helps pre­vent you from get­ting sick.

Ac­cord­ing to Ac­tiveBeat web­site, the eight im­mune boost­ing foods are:

1. Pump­kin, which con­tains es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents that will guard against colds and germs as it is packed with Vi­ta­min C, fo­late, an­tiox­i­dants, zinc, beta-Carotene and omega-3 fats.

2. Cin­na­mon, which has a long his­tory of treat­ing stom­ach ache, stom­ach flu, nau­sea and colds be­cause it has nat­u­ral an­tibac­te­rial and an­tivi­ral prop­er­ties.

3. Garlic, which con­tains al­licin, a chem­i­cal com­pound that pre­vents all sorts of flu viruses, fungi and bac­te­rial in­fec­tions.

4. Ginger root, which if added to warm wa­ter of herbal tea can soothe a raw throat, quell a stub­born cough be­cause of a cold, ease nau­sea and sub­due di­ges­tive up­set.

5. Parsnips, which are rich in Vi­ta­min C and potas­sium.

6. Ap­ples, which have ant-in­flam­ma­tory and anti-al­ler­genic ben­e­fits in each bite.

7. Cayenne pep­per, which erad­i­cates bac­te­ria and flu viruses be­fore they start. An ex­ist­ing cold also can be fought with mix­ing cayenne in wa­ter with lemon to calm cough and break up chest con­ges­tion.

8. Sweet potatoes. With their low glycemic in­dex, Vi­ta­min C and beta-Carotene, they help pro­tect you from cold and flu in­fec­tions.

So, I am here in my kitchen “lab” try­ing to make some­thing that in­cludes pump­kin, sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger root, parsnips, cayenne (per­haps a soup?), ap­ples and cin­na­mon (a dessert?) that will fight the cold and flu.

Photo by AU­DREY WIL­SON

Pump­kin soup with ginger, garlic and shi­itake mush­rooms.

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