April 29, 2020

Quarantine Cuisine: Simple Foods That Support a Healthy Immune System

Now that you’re at home and cooking a lot more than you ever have in the past, you’re probably wondering what you can make that will take advantage of what’s in the pantry. But in addition to perfecting your sourdough recipe and baking comforting desserts, you can also shift your menu choices to include meals that will actually help boost your immune system, which is something that everyone can use right now. In this article, we’ll outline some general guidelines for healthy eating and highlight some foods that can help bolster your immune system.

Try the Mediterranean Diet

Put simply, the Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based nutrition with less focus on meat and dairy, which is perfect for quarantine because you probably have a lot of the ingredients in your pantry right now. In addition to helping reduce risks for heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, the Mediterranean diet also helps boost immunity and reduce inflammation. Here’s how you can get started and start to shop accordingly:

  • Eat the rainbow. By eating five to six servings a day of different colored fruits and vegetables, each with its own nutrients and antioxidants, you’ll be giving your immune system a boost. 
  • Bring on the legumes. Healthy legumes, such as beans, lentils, and peanuts are great sources of fiber and minerals that you should try to eat once a day.
  • Cut back on meat. Try to keep red meat consumption to less than twice a week and opt for leaner cuts, such as flank steak or sirloin. On the other days, go vegetarian or cook leaner meats like fish, turkey, or chicken. 
  • Go for whole-grain over white grains. By choosing five to six servings a day of whole-grain options, such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice instead of white grains, like rice, flour, and pasta, you’ll be helping your immune system and reducing inflammation.
  • Focus on healthy fats. Use olive oil for cooking instead of butter and snack on nuts and seeds. 
  • Drink plenty of water. Doctors recommend drinking eight to 10 glasses of water a day.

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Healthy “Superfoods” to Eat During Quarantine

While not a specific category of foods, superfoods are ones that are nutritionally dense that also have healthy fats and antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and digestive problems. Some of the most popular superfoods include:

  • Blueberries. These are usually at the top of most superfoods lists because they are rich in vitamins, soluble fiber, and phytochemicals. Buy them frozen or fresh for a healthy addition to your meals.
  • Kale. You may be tired of hearing about kale, but it lives up to the hype when it comes to nutrition. In fact, lots of dark leafy greens, such as swiss chard, collards, mustard, and spinach are loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fiber, calcium, and other minerals.
  • Salmon, sardines, and mackerel. These fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. 
  • Yogurt. The probiotics in yogurt reinforce the beneficial bacteria in your body and help boost your immune system.
  • Tomatoes. Red tomatoes are the best because they’re loaded with the healthy antioxidant lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of certain cancers and coronary artery disease. 
  • Carrots. They’re easy to prepare and are dense in carotenoids, which are associated with lowering the risk of cancer and helping lessen the severity of inflammatory conditions like asthma and arthritis.
  • Apples. Leave the skin on and snack away. Apples are sweet, tasty and loaded with antioxidant phenols.

Popular Immunity-Boosting Foods to Have on Hand

In addition to exercising and getting enough sleep, eating these nutritious foods will help boost your immune system and help you fight off diseases:

  • Citrus fruits. Fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes are loaded with vitamin C, which is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of body tissues. They keep your immune system running smoothly.
  • Turmeric. A staple in Indian kitchens, turmeric is jam-packed with anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and anti-bacterial products. In addition to giving rich color to whatever you’re cooking, it’s great for your immune system.
  • Garlic. Garlic is known for its infection-fighting properties and research suggests that it can help lower blood pressure. 
  • Broccoli. This is one of the healthiest vegetables and an excellent source of vitamins C and K. It’s also loaded with potassium and folate. The less it’s cooked, the more intact its nutritional properties remain.
  • Almonds. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, which promotes a healthy immune system. They also have great antioxidant properties. 

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