Winter rolls in on December 21, which means flu season is lurking right around the corner. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 5-20% of Americans develop the flu each year, which peaks in January and February. Now is the perfect time to start developing positive habits in order to boost your immunity. Staying active, getting enough sleep, minimizing stress levels, and eating right can help you stay healthy.
All foods and beverages we choose to consume fuel our bodies, and including certain nutrients in your diet can help prime your immune system for fighting off bugs. It is important to include a protein source at each meal. Choose a variety of different protein foods including lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Some of these protein foods also contain important minerals required for the immune system to function, such as zinc, selenium, and iron.
Our immune system also requires vitamins to function appropriately. Vitamins A, C, and E are especially important. Vitamin A is necessary for the health of your skin and tissues in your digestive and respiratory tract. Vitamin A can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, red peppers, eggs, fortified milk and some ready-to-eat cereals. Vitamin C jumpstarts the immune system by stimulating the formation of antibodies against bacteria and viruses. Fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries contain Vitamin C. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which helps rid the body of free radicals to boost your immune response. Nuts, wheat germ, spinach, and vegetable oils (sunflower or safflower) are all good sources of Vitamin E.
Including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet is a great way to meet vitamin and mineral requirements. Some foods, such as broccoli, contain multiple immune boosting vitamins (A and C). Adding pine nuts and/or almonds to a dish also gives you a healthy dose of Vitamin E. Pairing this broccoli side dish with your favorite protein is a great way to pack many of these nutrients into one meal.
Broccoli with Caramelized Onions & Pine Nuts
Serving size: ¾ cup
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion (~1 medium)
- ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Toast pine nuts (or almonds) in a medium dry skillet over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool.
- Add oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, adjusting the heat as necessary, until soft and golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, steam broccoli until just tender, 4-6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the nuts, onion, vinegar, and pepper. Toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information: 102 calories, 7g fat (1g sat, 3g mono), 9g carb, 3g protein, 3g fiber
Recipe courtesy: www.eatingwell.com
Contact your FFC Dietitian, Christine Steinmetz, with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org