When it's cold and flu season, sometimes it seems like no amount of hand washing can stave off sniffles and coughs. Fortunately, we can do more for our immune systems starting in our refrigerators! Super foods are certain foods that contain the right combination of vitamins and minerals. We need them to stave off infections.
Check out these four super foods to boost your immune system. They’re equal parts tasty and healthy, we promise.
There’s a good reason spinach is the food of choice for Popeye the Sailor. This leafy green super food is jam-packed with essential nutrients. It keep our bodies and immune systems functioning. Spinach is undoubtedly tasty. Enjoy it raw or lightly sautéed with a little garlic and lemon. It will keep your body moving and ready to fight off colds without breaking a sweat.
How It Helps: An Abundance of Vitamins & Minerals
Iron, vitamins A, B, C, and K, carotenoids, magnesium, fiber, and oodles more! Spinach is one of the most vitamin-rich veggies out there. It's perfect for fortifying your immune system. The flavonoids in particular are great at warding off respiratory infections and the common cold.
A little known bonus of spinach is that the bio-availability of all these nutrients (in other words, how much of them your body can actually absorb versus how much is present in the food) isn’t affected by the preparation. Raw, boiled, steamed, frozen – it’s all equally healthy.
Sunflower oil gets a bad rap from its use in frying. However it still is a powerful super food when eaten as sunflower butter or as a light salad dressing. You may be tempted to cut back on the oils and fats. But sunflower oil has some of the most ‘healthy fats’ of any food.
So the next time your recipe calls for oil, consider this super food! Try pairing it with seeds by sprinkling some into your homemade trail mix. It's a crunchy treat!
How It Helps: Healthy Fats & Vitamin E
Surprisingly healthy and extremely delicious, sunflower oil is coconut oil’s healthier cousin - yes, really! Sunflower oil contains a generous amount of vitamin E and polyunsaturated fat. This makes it a powerful antioxidant and a rich source of omega-6 fatty acids.
These work to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They lower cholesterol levels and give you the needed vitamins and minerals to keep your immune system working like a well-oiled (wink!) machine.
These orange tubers are actually only distantly related to the potato. But they’re a dozen times more delicious and healthy. An excellent source of complex carbs and fiber, considering substituting them in the next time you need a carbohydrate to act as a base in a meal.
They’re great roasted or baked on their own or used in a variety of recipes from different Asian cuisines. Enjoy!
How It Helps: Beautiful Beta-Carotene
Sweet potatoes are bright orange for the same reason carrots are – they contain a hearty amount of beta-carotene, vitamin C, and tons of other micronutrients.
The darker the color, the richer the nutrients! In particular, beta-carotene is a carotenoid, famous for its reported benefits on our immune systems. It works by amplifying our immune responses, giving our bodies the energy to fight off infections before we even feel a sniffle coming on.
Creamy, delicious yogurt packed with live probiotics is a powerful way to reinforce your immune system’s defenses. Plus, as simple and versatile as it is, you’ll have no trouble adding in yogurt to your daily diet.
Consider yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast or dropping a dollop onto your salad for lunch. Just make sure to stay away from yogurts with tons of added sugar. When in doubt, a little plain Greek yogurt and some frozen blueberries will never treat you wrong.
How It Helps: Probiotics
Yes, probiotics are alive! They’re little microorganisms that help with our gut flora, or the millions upons millions of little bacteria that line our digestive tract and help us process food.
These live probiotics soothe inflammation and promote the growth of new, beneficial bacteria. This helps fight off sickness-causing bad bacteria, bolstering our immune systems from within.