I’m already bracing for cold and flu season. I’ve taken all the preventive steps that my doctor recommended. I’ve also decided to work on natural ways to boost my immune system.
I’m starting by getting plenty of liquids to help prevent viruses and bacteria from taking up residence in my body. According to Dr. Riva Rahl of the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, “The mucus in your nose is actually one of the key physical barriers that keep germs out of your body. When you’re not well hydrated, it dries up and doesn’t provide that barrier.”
The following health and wellness tips include a variety of ways to help your immune system work at peak performance:
- Protein is a building block for a healthy immune system. Choose lean red meats, poultry and fish, dried beans and soy. You also can choose protein-rich plant sources with heart-healthy fat, like peanut butter and nuts.
- Choose foods rich in vitamins C and E. These antioxidant-rich vitamins protect cells — including those of your immune system — from damage by toxins in the environment. Choose citrus fruits/juices, melons, mangoes, kiwi, peppers, tomatoes, berries, broccoli, cabbage, sweet/white potatoes, winter squash, leafy greens, almonds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, whole grains and fortified cereals several times a day.
- Add a zinc-rich food to your daily diet to increase your body’s production of white blood cells. Research shows that this effect can reduce the number of days you’ll suffer from a cold. Among the foods rich in zinc are yogurt, lean red meat, poultry and fish, almonds, pumpkin seeds and fortified cereals.
- Eat probiotic foods to help build up good bacteria in the intestines. These bacteria play a role in helping to fend off illnesses. Any fermented food is rich in this type of good bacteria, so choose yogurt, sauerkraut, tofu, brine-treated pickles and aged cheese at least daily.
- Add a turmeric extract, with dosages exceeding 1 gram per day, to your daily immunity-boosting regimen. Turmeric contains powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also contains compounds called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin. The best turmeric extract supplements contain piperine, a substance found in black pepper, which increases the effectiveness and adsorption of the turmeric extract into the bloodstream. Curcumin also is fat soluble, so it may be a good idea take the extract with a fatty meal.
Turmeric-Spiced Lentil, Kale and Chickpea Stew
If you’ve never used turmeric to spice up your cooking, start with half of the suggested amount in this recipe. It has a very distinct flavor that may be an acquired taste for some.
2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
4–5 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
1–2 teaspoons turmeric powder or 2–3 teaspoons fresh turmeric, finely grated
1 tablespoon cumin
1 pound kale, tough stems removed, leaves well-washed and chopped
1 can (15-ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes (or use 1–2 cups fresh, diced tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed and drained
2 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling
Garnishes: fresh cilantro or dill, chopped green onions or scallions, and lemon or lime wedges, optional
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stew pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium. Saute the onion in the olive oil for 3-5 minutes until golden. Add ginger, garlic, turmeric and cumin, and saute 2-3 minutes until the garlic is golden. Add the kale and saute 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper and cloves, and saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vegetable or chicken stock. Cover and turn heat to high and bring to a boil.
3. Turn heat to medium and add the lentils, quinoa, chickpeas and coconut milk. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place stew in serving bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with fresh cilantro or dill, chopped green onions or scallions, and a wedge of lemon or lime, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.