5 foods to boost your immune system
Experts agree a nutritious diet will help strengthen your body’s ability to fight infections.
Admittedly, there have been times in these last 12 months I’ve wanted to curl up in a corner with a jar of Nutella and a spoon. We are all weary of COVID-19, but as Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said in an interview, the U.S. is “facing a whole lot of trouble” as COVID cases continue rising.
But instead of retreating to a dark place with supply of chocolate, good nutrition is important—now more than ever. If you'd like, go ahead and jump to the end of this post and grab the recipe card for Creamy Sweet Potato and Shrimp Curry.
The University of California, Davis recommends these foods to boost your immune system:
Vitamin A (beta carotene) helps your intestines and respiratory system. Wondering how carrots could help my lungs be strong, followed that rabbit hole otherwise known as Google. According to the National Institute of Health, Vitamin A is involved in making and maintaining epithelial cells. These cells are found on our skin, as well as the inside of our throats, intestines, blood vessels, and organs. Epithelial cells, according to Arizona State University, are often the first thing a virus will attack. So, eat your carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli and red bell peppers.
Vitamin C helps with the formation of antibodies that give our bodies the power to fight infections. My dad always loaded up on Vitamin C during the winter; he rarely had a head cold, let alone flu. Citrus, strawberries, bell peppers, and kiwis are good sources for this vitamin.
Vitamin E—found in avocado, vegetable oil, nuts, and seeds—work as an antioxidant, which help to protect cells.
Zinc deficiencies have been linked with immune dysfunction, according to UC Davis. That’s why it’s important to include zinc-rich foods like beans, seeds, nuts, and seafood in our eating plans.
Proteins have amino acids, which are essential for T-cell function (the cells that protect against viruses. Lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds all have protein.
So, what does this mean to the person responsible for making family meals?
Jennifer McDaniel, a registered dietician based in St. Louis, is the founder/owner of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy. She’s also co-author of the Mediterranean Table Cookbook.
This isn’t a sponsored post; I merely came across her company’s website while researching my story, and she seems to have good, practical advice. Since I’m certainly not an expert, you might contact her team if you want to dive further into nutrition. You also might find her article interesting (as I did). The point about Vitamin D was fascinating.
I’ve thought more this past year than ever before about what I eat. Admittedly, what I put in my mouth bounces between curling up with the jar of Nutella to incorporating more vegetable-forward dishes into my week.
One simple change I’ve made is moving away from my former typical lunch—a sandwich with deli meat and cheese—to dishes like a frittata or homemade vegetable soup. Of course, being home all the time gives me the leisure to prepare lunches like this, but even folks who work outside the home can do something similar. It just takes a bit of planning and cooking a meal in advance of when you want to eat it.
Still, if food doesn’t satisfy all my taste points and feeds me emotionally, I won’t eat it. A bowl of micro greens would certainly be healthy, but I can’t get excited about them. I can, however, get excited about this Creamy Sweet Potato and Shrimp Curry that I recently made and served over rice.
Inspired by a recipe I saw on the Pinch of Yum site, this warming bowl of goodness not only hit the flavor points for me, but it felt like I was eating something good for me.
Sweet potatoes and spinach delivered Vitamin A to my system, and the shrimp provided protein and Zinc. The sweetness of the coconut milk and the warmth of that beautifully complex curry paste rounds out this totally satisfying dish that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner.
If you’re like me and grew up in the Midwest, curry might seem a bit too adventurous. “Oh, that’s too spicy for me” or “I don’t think I’d like that” are comments often heard in Missouri when it comes to different cuisines and their ingredients. Hey, we can’t physically travel right now, so bust out of your little corner of the world through food!
That’s what I do. A trip to the Pan-Asia Supermarket not far from my home is a total experiential outing for me. When I visited last month with my friend, Leslie, who is an expert at Japanese cooking, it felt like I had been somewhere! All types of different foods, smells—I wish I had allotted more time.
The market had an entire aisle of curry powders and pastes. I tried a jar of Rogan Josh paste. It has a smoky yet sweet taste with warming spices like cardamon and clove. Utterly delightful. I’ll likely explore different curry pastes (red, yellow, green) before trying to make my own, but I found a good primer on curry (the spice blend and the dish) from Raw Spice Bar.
I promise, this recipe is easy to make, and is no more spicy than the bowl of chili you might have made last weekend. Put some good vegetables into your tummy with this sweet potato curry.
Creamy Sweet Potato and Shrimp Curry
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons Rogan Josh paste
1 (14-ounce) can regular coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups baby spinach
2 cups medium precooked shrimp, cleaned, thawed
1 ½ teaspoons oyster sauce
Lime for garnish
In a stock pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until soft and fragrant. Add sweet potatoes and stir to coat with oil. Add curry paste and oyster sauce. Stir until well combined.
Add the coconut milk and vegetable broth.
Cut shrimp in half and add to stock pot. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes until thickened. Stir in spinach and let it wilt into the mixture.
Serve over white sticky rice with a lime quarter on the side.
MORMON SOUP is another warm bowl with plenty of veggie goodness