Last weekend a local public access television show from the station where our Two Kids Cooking TV airs asked if I would be on the show to share some recipes and nutrition information about staying healthy to avoid the flu and other illnesses. I was a little hesitant because we are not exactly all about health. I mean, we do have healthy recipes, but we really are more about showing families how fun and easy it is to cook real food together. BUT, I realized that I follow so many great blogs with lots of awesome healthful information and recipes that I could pull something together and share my sources.
As I was doing research for the show, I was thinking about this year’s reports of the flu from those that have had it and how they’ve been extra un-fun and included many deaths. Even those who have gotten vaccinated haven’t been safe from potential suffering. At our house, we’ve been flu free—actually we’ve never really gotten the flu, (knock on wood!). I do get vaccinated every year because my office has a flu shot clinic, so why not, right? Some years I get the kids vaccinated, and others I don’t; it really depends on our schedule and fitting it in. This year they are vaccine free and have made it through with no flu.
I don’t have definitive answers as to why we are lucky enough to stay pretty healthy, but, I do try really hard to make sure we are eating healthy, balanced food, even when we’re busy. I am not always successful. Alex and Sophia are both sugar fiends and dessert is a ‘whenever possible’ occurrence for them. However, in addition to continually trying to control their intake of sugar, I enforce nutrition to make sure they get nutrients in their bodies, too.
Anyway, here’s what my research lead me to. There are key vitamins, minerals and other ‘things’ that keep coming up no matter what source I was looking at, including:
Beta-carotene is an A vitamin that strengthens the body’s immune system and neutralizes harmful toxins.
Foods that are great sources of beta-carotene include: Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, squash, Pumpkin, Egg Yolks and Cantaloupe.
Vitamin C –
When you’re asked how to fight off sickness, most people instantly think of Vitamin C. Citrus fruits are well known for this immune supporting anti-oxidant.
There are lots of other foods that contain Vitamin C as well, like: Strawberries, Bell Peppers, Dark Leafy Greens, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Kiwi, Tomatoes (and don’t forget Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemons, etc).
Vitamin E –
Vitamin E is another immune boosting vitamin that also fights harmful free radicals.
Foods that contain lots of Vitamin E are: Sunflower Seeds, Almonds, Turnip Greens, Fortified Cereals and Wheat Germ.
Vitamin D –
Lack of Vitamin D is thought to be one reason why the flu rates are so high in the winter. Adequate levels of Vitamin D help support immune function and hence may help decrease instances of getting the flu
Foods that contain Vitamin D are: Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, catfish, eggs, sunshine, shitake and button mushrooms.
Another immune booster, Zinc helps strengthen white bloods cells that attack bacteria and viruses to prevent illnesses like the flu.
Foods that contain lots of Zinc are: Oysters, Pumpkin Seeds, Squash Seeds, Wheat Germ, Dark Chocolate, Cocoa Powder, Peanuts, Roast Beef, Lamb and Crab
Selenium is a mineral that seems to increase the action of anti-oxidants and make many body processes work correctly
Foods that contain Selenium: Mushrooms, Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, Crab, Pork, Brazil Nuts, Orange Roughy.
Beta Glucan is a type of fiber with anti-microbial properties that increases chemicals in the body that prevent infection, hence, stimulating the immune.
Foods that contain Beta Glucan are: Mushrooms, Oats and Barley
Protein is important for keeping the body strong
It can be found in meat, like: Turkey, Beef, Pork and Fish.
There were also three foods that were mentioned frequently:
Probiotics and prebiotics are found in naturally fermented foods and are essential to digestive health. A healthy digestive systems means that you’ll absorb nutrients more efficient and effectively, keeping you healthier. Make sure your yogurt contains live and active cultures!
Garlic contains and antimicrobial compound called Allicin. This phytochemical has immune-stimulating properties and can also give you relief from slight congestion.
Green, oolong, and black tea, contain antioxidants that help fight disease. Plus, the steam from a nice toasty cup of tea can help relieve congestion.
As you look at this list of foods containing health encouraging vitamins, minerals and ‘stuff’, you can see that there is plenty of opportunity to come up with some tasty and healthy recipes. Here are a couple that not only provide immune/health boosting nutrients, but also have that comfort food vibe:
Crock Bot Turkey Breast with Veggies
1 Bone in Turkey Breast
2 Cups Carrots
2 Cups Golden Potatoes
3 Stalks Celery
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Carton Button Mushrooms
3 Cups Chicken Stock
Salt to taste
Pepper to Taste
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
Season Turkey Breast with salt, pepper and garlic that has been pressed or minced. Place the Turkey Breast into the slow cooker. Cut the carrots, potatoes and celery into cubes/chunks and add to the crock pot. Brush off your mushrooms and toss them in along with the chicken stock, rosemary sprigs and salt and pepper. Cook on low for about 5 hours, or high for 3….just make sure your turkey breast reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees.
Aunt Dani’s Harvest Orange Salad
This is a recipe from Aunt Dani, that is not only colorful, but filled with immune boosting ingredients.
Slowcooker Chicken Soup from NourishedKitchen.com-
This recipe was shared with us by Heather Giese over at MuffinDiaries.com…the recipe itself is from one of her favorite sites, NourishedKitchen.com.
Heather also shared an immune boosting juice recipe that she and her family love:
Carrot Apple Ginger Juice
1″ piece ginger root
Run through juicer.
Dilute with water to your flavor preference.
(makes 2 servings)
And finally, I’m sharing an Elderberry Elixir Recipe that Heather also shared with me (she’s got lots of great recipes!). I, personally, have never tried it, but I have read on lots of blogs, the powers of protection it holds. Elderberry’s do contain a bunch of super antioxidants, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids and querecin which are all great for immune support, so that might be part of its power.
Elderberry Elixir from Diary of a Small Town Earth Muffin
2/3 c. elderberries
3 1/2 c. water,
2 T. ginger root minced
1 tsp cinnamon powder
sprinkle of clove powder
1 c. raw honey
Boil all ingredients except honey, simmer 45 minutes until liquid reduces by 1/3. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Strain. While the liquid is still somewhat warm, although not hot, add the honey and stir well. Store in fridge. Dosing = adults 1 T. day, kids 1 tsp day; during cold or flu – triple the dose.
Well I think that is my longest post EVER! I hope you found it informational, and I hope I remember it all when I’m on the show!
I’ve also shared some of our favorite sites for healthy recipes, kids/family recipes as well as my references for the research I did. I know I missed some great sites, so please share your favorites in the comments!
WebMD – http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/home-remedies-9/slideshow-flu-foods
LiveStrong.com – http://www.livestrong.com/article/111704-elderberry-nutrition-benefits/#ixzz2JzqXth7i
Mother Nature Network – http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/photos/10-flu-fighting-foods/fresh-garlic
Wikipedia.com – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_A and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D