Winter foods to keep you healthy: Fruits, vegetables, nuts and more

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By Heather Mendiola

It is that time of year again where everyone is getting sick. And you should do more than just hand sanitizer and avoiding coughing people to keep your immune system healthy.

At the very least, you can eat colorful fruits and vegetables and 8-10 servings of water each day, but there are is an array of delicious foods that will help boost your immune system. If you are sick, this diet will be especially helpful.

The best way to supply antioxidants is through fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Not even the supplements are as effective as natural foods.

An important element our bodies need that we may never think about is zinc. Zinc is in all parts of our body even though 90% is in muscle and bone. Besides zinc helping with cell growth and division, fertility, and vision, it is also essential for the immune system. High zinc levels keep our T-cells strong and able to recognize and fight off certain infections such as pneumonia and can even help with diarrhea. Similarly, low levels reduce and weaken our T-cells’ ability to fight infections.

Zinc can be found most abundantly in red meats, but can also be found in poultry, fish, seafood, whole cereals and dairy products.

Convenient enough, fish, seafood, whole cereals and dairy products can also be high in other immune system boosting antioxidants. These antioxidants are important for your immune system function because they neutralize molecules called free radicals that can harm our cells and studies linked to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Antioxidants you want to be consuming are beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, Vitamin A, E, C, and flavanoids. These antioxidants are in a variety of foods ready for a delicious combination of meals.

For breakfast a combination of fruit and yogurt, whether in a smoothie or stirred together will give you a handful of Vitamin C and probiotics which are healthy bacterial that will help keep the gut and intestinal tract clean of bad germs.

If you do not like that idea you can try oatmeal or whole grain cereal, and I do not mean Quakers or the oatmeal from a package. I am talking whole grains and seeds such as flax seeds, rolled oats, rye, barley, and triticale (hybrid crop high in potassium and low in sodium). This gives you antioxidants such as selenium from the rye and whole wheat as well as Vitamin B. More abundantly this meal would give you protein, fiber, carbohydrates-which contrary to popular belief are actually good for you and can help improve digestion and lower risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.

If you are a fan of second breakfast and elevensies as Hobbits so often are, then additional morning meals could be egg whites and some colorful veggies in an omelet or simply scrambled together with some delicious spices of rosemary, sage. In addition to a mouthful of flavors, you will get a mixture of antioxidants depending on which veggies you choose. Carrots and kale contain beta-carotene. Spinach contains lutein, as do other green leafy vegetables. Tomatoes contain lycopene. Carrots, milk and egg yolks also contain Vitamin A. Broccoli contains both Vitamin E and C.

Maybe the Hobbits did have something right with their eating habits though. Eating 5-6 small meals a day can help keep your metabolism consistent so your body’s nutrients stay at constant levels. Additionally, a daily meal schedule of breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper also provides a specified time to have antioxidant filled tea such as green or black tea.

However, for humans it is recommended that you have 5-6 cups of green or black tea a day to receive the proper amount of antioxidants.

For dinner, especially if you are sick, a good meal is chicken noodle soup. Cooked chicken releases cysteine (an amino acid) that helps release bronchial tube congestion. The salt also helps think mucus, and if you add spices or onions then you get antioxidants as well.

Some suggestions for supper would be fish or seafood’s such as oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams are rich in selenium which helps white blood cells produce cytokines- proteins that help rid the body of viruses. Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, and help keep the respiratory system free from infections.

Finally, for desert or with your Longbottom Leaf, you could have some papaya, watermelon, and mangoes to give you 2x the Lycopene, and Vitamin E, respectively.

These foods will not only boost your immune system but also improve your digestive system and keep your muscles lean and provide you with the energy you need each day.

Moreover, do not forget to drink water, a necessary 8-10 glasses a day.

Who knew the diet our parents tried to make us eat when we were younger actually has merit behind it! Maybe our parents knew what they were doing after all.

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