If the image of veggies in capes and masks comes to mind when you hear “superfood” you’re not alone. Which of those heroes are foods to help boost immunity?
In our ever-changing world of nutrition and what’s hot and what’s not, there continues to be the staples in our food supply that can (and do) help with alleviating inflammation and creating a healthier immune system. They have been around forever. There are no gimmicks whatsoever. Lists such as these continually evolve and grow, just as our understanding of the needs of the body and what fuels us to maintain strength and energy throughout flu season or allergy season or any other illness that threatens our ability to sustain positive forward movement.
Instead of breaking down the foods I find super, I thought groups and categories of fruits, vegetables and proteins will help us understand more about how simple color added to any diet can make a world of difference in keeping dis-ease at bay.
Here are my current go-to super foods to help the immune system run on all cylinders:
This may seem like a wide scope of leafy vegetables, but there are only a few I consider to be worthy of “super.” Spinach was given to Popeye for a reason. This leafy and reasonably priced green food is top-notch on my list. It is tasty, full of iron, folic acid, Vitamin C and calcium, and is one of the most adaptable leafy vegetables to include in any main or side dish.
Kale is the other super power green and kind of the “it” vegetable of this millennium. Its’ texture is a bit more dense than spinach, but it is loaded with the same vitamin content as its spinach counterpart. Use it in juicing, salads, and main course stir fry dishes.
Swiss chard is another power house green food that is high and above regular old iceberg lettuce. I love this vein-like vegetable. Granted, it’s not exactly salad worthy, but can be used in juicing, main dishes with other protein sources and steamed with a little olive oil and lemon. Swiss chard is a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains, which are found in the purplish and reddish stocky parts of the vegetable. Along with kale, chard is one of the best sources of antioxidants and blood sugar control foods. It ranks so high due to the many cardioprotective flavonoids, which keeps the heart healthy and strong. Organic is always preferred, so be choosy when shopping for super greens. Farmers markets are typically the way to go.
Blueberries for the brain and memory. Strawberries for the heart and skin. Raspberries for all kinds of inflammation and blood sugar control. Blackberries for alleviating intestinal problems and creating a healthy gut response. All of these colorful and rich berries are loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin K (good for blood flow), anti-viral properties and bioflavonoids, which keep the immune system functioning at a high level.
Use them in smoothies, salads, mixed with yogurt and other superbly healthy delights. Or just eat handfuls of them. Your body will thank you. Berries are so low on the glycemic index (which monitors sugar content and how it breaks down in our bodies) that they are used in almost every weight loss program. Their antioxidant properties far outweigh any other fruit when it comes to enhancing our immunity. They are a surefire super food!
Another colorful and heat-producing assortment of vegetables that are so versatile most dishes are named after them. Between the traditional green and red and yellow bell peppers whose excellent sources of Vitamin C, magnesium, fiber, Vitamin B2, niacin and potassium help ward off all illnesses, bell peppers are considered to be one of the world’s healthiest foods. Popular in many dishes paired with dips or salads, bell peppers are the mildest form of pepper when eating raw.
Serrano, jalapeno, habanero and cayenne peppers are notorious for being spicy and hot and adding a zing to all other foods. Almost described as one of the most beneficial remedies for alleviating joint pain, these heart-healthy searing pain soothers are good for decongestion and prostate health. With their eye-watering effects, the spicy capsaicin (the spicy part of the pepper that gives them their heat) are bursting with antioxidants and so much super-hot health benefits that even a few healthy additions to any dish will boost overall immune wellness. Packed with Vitamin C, all hot peppers are a must in the super food group.
This is one protein super food that deserves its own highlight. Nature has dubbed it “the perfect food” —mainly because it is more than just yolk and shell and fleshy white edges. The egg has iron, B vitamins, helps with the collagen and elastic fibers of our skin, they help with headaches associated with low blood sugar, and pack about 12 grams of protein per each oval ounce of goodness. Eggs are so versatile too. Hard-boiled, scrambled, fried, poached, you name it and eggs can do it. They are a super food in every way, shape and form.
Natural, free-range, cage-free eggs are the most humane source of protein and choline, and one of the few foods to contain high contents of Vitamin D. Eggs also have Vitamin A and E, which are excellent for skin inflammation. More healthy doses of this simple food to the diet will boost calcium, phosphorous and potassium levels as well. There is so much to be said about the egg, which also comes in either brown or white, depending on the chicken and how it is raised. A day without an egg is similar to a day without a smile.
All of these super foods have one thing in common: they are easy to grow, harvest, raise and cook with and add flavor and incredible nutrition to all dishes. The rewards of including any, or all of them in our daily fare, will help increase our ability to manage illness and satisfy our taste buds for days on end.
There is no reason to rely on unnatural means or processed foods to bolster the body. Our bodies crave and need more real and simple foods during the cold season and transition to spring. Year-round is preferable, yet any chance to add a super food to our daily menu will keep the body running smoothly.
“Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that; it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself, it will do more than if you paralyze it by encumbering it with remedies.” —Leo Tolstoy
[image: via Justin Sewell on Flickr]