This year has had a significant impact on so many of us, our financial, mental, and physical health, our families, and our community. Many of us have seen impacts to our health throughout 2020, associated with unprecedented challenges, disruption, innovation, stillness, and resiliency. Maintaining a healthy immune system through nutrition is one way to give your body extra protection and provide self-care during this season.
To support your health this winter, I encourage you to focus on nutrient-dense foods and healthy lifestyle behaviors. The following nutrients support the immune system and are abundant in a variety of foods:
●Beta carotene has powerful antioxidant properties and can be found in plant foods including sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mango, broccoli, and tomatoes.
●Vitamin C supports the immune system by activating the formation of antibodies. Choose oranges or 100% orange juice, grapefruit, tangerines, bell pepper, broccoli and brussel sprouts to increase your intake of this nutrient powerhouse.
●Vitamin D boosts immune cells’ production of microbe-fighting proteins. This vitamin is found naturally in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Many 100% juices, milk and plant-based milk alternatives are also fortified with vitamin D.
●Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system and is provided through lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts.
Preparing meals that incorporate these nutrients doesn’t mean spending hours upon hours in the kitchen. Many recipes like the Mediterranean Diced Salad, below, can be prepared in advance, or make for a great lunch the next day.
This season and throughout the New Year ahead, you are supporting your health when you focus efforts on lifestyle choices that promote adequate sleep, healthy stress management, and a balanced, nourishing diet to support the strength of your immune system.
Mediterranean Diced Salad
●1 19-ounce can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
●1 red pepper
●2 stalks celery
●1 cup halved grape tomatoes
●Juice of 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
●1 tablespoon white vinegar
●2 tablespoons olive oil
●1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Drain and rinse chickpeas and put in a large mixing bowl. Core red pepper and dice into half-inch squares. Add to bowl. Peel and chop cucumber; slice celery lengthwise and chop. Add to bowl. Add halved grape tomatoes.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil. Pour over salad ingredients. Toss well to coat all ingredients. Add parsley or dried herbs and mix again. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Season to taste. Serves six
Each serving contains about 142 calories, 4 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 18 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, and 208 mg sodium.
Jessica Keys, RDN, CLC, is a clinical dietitian at Barton Health. For more information, visit bartonhealth.org/nutrition.