Energize with Immune Boosting Foods over the Holiday Season
‘Tis the season of colds and flu! With the extra social activities and contact with people around the holidays, it’s not always possible to keep your distance from friends, family and co-workers who are sneezing and coughing. While that avoidance strategy may not be possible, let’s explore how you can energize with immune boosting foods over the holiday season!
Often I feature sweet potatoes as an immune boosting holiday food, so let’s talk about butternut squash as another immune boosting winter vegetable. It has high beta-carotene and vitamin C which are both good for immune health. Beta-carotene gives squash its orange coloured flesh and is converted into vitamin A which is good for eye health. More good news! Butternut squash contains high levels of the antioxidants – lutein and zeaxanthin, which help combat oxidative stress which promotes immune health. Don’t forget about the seeds. They are rich healthy fats and zinc and can be eaten as a snack.
Jane’s Menu Ideas
Butternut squash pairs well with a variety of flavours, including apple, smoky bacon, cinnamon, and balsamic vinegar. It’s a very versatile veggie for the season and can be used in soups (pureed or diced), roasted as a hot side, in pilafs and in cold salads, mashed to replace traditional white potatoes, in muffins and my holiday favourite – maple cinnamon glazed pieces as a sweet savoury side dish.
Cranberries are the holiday red jewels packed with the antioxidant proanthocyanidins. Antioxidant-rich cranberries combat oxidative stress which decreases inflammation and promotes immune health. Both actions promote immune health. They are a good source of fibre for digestive health, vitamins C for immune health and K for bone health. A 60 mL (¼ cup) serving of fresh cranberries is only 13 calories.
Jane’s Menu Ideas
To develop a taste for fresh cranberries, try adding them to your morning oatmeal with a sprinkle of brown sugar (½ teaspoon) and a dash of nutmeg. Get creative and try a delicious cranberry salsa with diced apples, chopped red onion, and cilantro. And if you’re feeling adventurous, kick up the heat with a jalapeño pepper, another immune boosting ingredient.
Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein, which is essential for all cell and muscle maintenance. I’ve always preferred the taste and texture of dark meat, which is packed with nutrients including zinc, iron and selenium. All are excellent for immune health. Eating broth based soups including turkey vegetable may reduce inflammation, increase needed hydration and combat nasal congestion associated with the common cold.
Jane’s Menu Ideas
After Christmas dinner, put the leftover turkey carcass in a stockpot full of water to take every last piece of nutrition from the bones to make soup. Or you could easily use low sodium vegetable stock with leftover turkey meat. Add cooked barley, high in soluble fibre and antioxidants. Include anti-inflammatory veggies, such as kale and butternut squash. Then, use fresh ginger and turmeric to give your immune system the knock-out combination to fight off any germs lurking on the scene.
Final Energize Tip
Don’t forget about water. Drinking plenty of water will hydrate you, which is crucial to optimizing a healthy immune system. Follow my tips to energize with immune boosting foods over the holiday season, plan on getting restful sleep and wash your hands to stay healthy while enjoying this special time of year.
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