As fall turns to winter, everyone seems worried about getting a cold, the flu or worse. The question becomes, what can you do to improve your immunity? You can boost your immunity with better stress management, exercise, getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition.
The good news is you don't need a fancy exercise program. Walking fits the bill. Try to get your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes three or more days a week. Getting adequate sleep is also important. Aim for at least seven hours a night. Having close relationships and a strong support system helps with stress management.
Your diet plays a role in your immunity. In fact, proper nutrition is essential for your immune system to work well.
To improve your immune system, eat more fruits and vegetables. All fruits and vegetables are good, although some are higher in antioxidants than others, and that can boost your resistance to infections. Colorful fruits and vegetables are especially high in antioxidants. Think red, orange, yellow, purple and blue.
For foods that boost your immunity, focus on foods containing the three major antioxidant vitamins: vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.
• Vitamin C is found in: berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries and tomatoes as well as red, green and yellow peppers.
• Vitamin E is found in: broccoli (boiled), avocado, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach (boiled) and sunflower seeds.
• Beta-carotene and other carotenoids are found in: apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes and watermelon.
Other antioxidant-rich foods include prunes, apples, raisins, plums, red grapes, alfalfa sprouts, onions, eggplant and beans.
It's best to get your antioxidants and other nutrients from food instead of a supplement. There are many different nutrients in food and they work synergistically. Supplements don't have the same mix.
Always be looking for ways to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, canned (no added sugar or salt), or frozen. Drinking fruit or vegetable juice is an option but be aware that fruit juice is high in calories, and vegetable juice may be high in sodium.
This minestrone soup will keep you warm on these cold nights.
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
5 carrots, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
15-ounce can of green beans, drained
2 cups baby spinach
3 small zucchinis, quartered and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup seashell pasta
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and sauté garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, water and tomato sauce, bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach leaves, zucchini, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside. Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through, place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Serve.
Teresa Farrell is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.