Immune Boost: Fruit & Vegetable Rainbow
Immune Boost: Fruit & Vegetable Rainbow
Making healthy choices about how we live, including eating, sleeping, exercising, and stress-relief provide a strong foundation for healing. Choosing foods rich in immune-boosting nutrients is our first line of defense against illness. In the midst of the upheaval due to Covid-19 little is in our control, however we can choose to seek out foods that not only sustain us, but increase immune function. Rich in antioxidants, fruits and vegetables provide a wide array of minerals, fiber, and vitamins that strengthen our bodies. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables everyday is key. An easy way to accomplish consuming a full spectrum of nutrients is by focusing on eating 5 different colors each day.
Antioxidants protect cells from the onslaught of chemicals called free radicals which are capable of damaging cells and genetic material. Free radicals are created in the body by the natural process of transforming food into energy, and also by exposure to cigarette smoke and pollution. Free radicals extract electrons from any other cells they can. The loss of the electrons can dramatically alter the function of the cells.
Oxidative stress results from too many free radicals in the body. To fight this constant attack the body creates molecules which can provide electrons to free radicals without becoming damaged themselves. These molecules are called antioxidants.
We help our bodies build the weapons needed by consuming nutrient-rich foods. And variety is key. Different fruits and vegetables contain different plant proteins, phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Fighting illness, such as flu or coronavirus, and protecting against disease requires a full arsenal. Focusing on these five colors and getting them on our tables assures a complete stockpile of nutrition.
Grapes, plums, blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, and purple cabbage provide the body with resveratrol and phenolics, as well as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give blue, purple (and red) fruits and vegetables their color, and is a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells in the body and reducing inflammation. Leave the skin on an eggplant since many of the nutrients are found there.
Beyond the basic lettuce, go green with avocados, kiwi, broccoli, spinach, and melon. Many of these are rich in Vitamin E, which has strong antioxidant activity. For something different try spiral cutting a zucchini to create zucchini noodles and top with tomato sauce.
Beta-carotene is a powerhouse when it comes to cognitive health. The same can be said for Vitamin C when it comes to boosting immunity. Fruits and vegetables in this color category feature plenty of these nutrients, including oranges, sweet potatoes, mangoes, and carrots. Boil carrots whole rather than chopped to preserve their beneficial nutrients.
Containing lycopene and anthrocyanins, red fruits and vegetables (like raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, cherries, and watermelon) combat damaging free radicals and support prostate and urinary tract health. While it is often advisable to eat raw rather than cooked fruits and vegetables, lycopene is actually more potent in cooked tomatoes, so whip up some delicious tomato-based sauces, stews and soups.
Allicin, a phytonutrient found in garlic and onion, contributes to the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Made naturally in the body, glutathione supports liver function and immune health. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower also contribute to glutathione. Other white fruits and vegetables to look for include pears, bananas, jicama and mushrooms. Try making jicama fries by baking or air frying jicama slices and adding your favorite spices and seasonings.
The immune system is under assault from not only illness and disease, but from poor diet, stress, lack of sleep and exercise. The best defense involves a focus on healthy-living strategies.
Joe Eisele, CACIII, NCAC
Joe is the Clinical Director at InnerBalance Health Center and has been helping achieve lifelong sobriety incorporating biochemical restoration and holistic addiction treatment for over 30 years.