With the world spinning on the brink of a potential global health crisis, it is more important than ever to check in on our health. We can start by going back to the basics — healthy food practices. How we treat and fuel our bodies is our first line of defense against the spread of disease. So, with coronavirus flashing across the headlines, we decided to partner up with nutritionist Alina Zolotareva RDN to learn more about how we can use food to strength our immunity.
1. A healthy, balanced diet rich in key immune-boosting nutrients is the key to a strong immune system that protects us from infection, especially now. The best part: you won’t need to pay an arm and a leg for expensive supplements because nature is our best farm-acy.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough fresh produce on the daily
It isn’t enough to eat 5 oranges at the first sign of a cold--eating a variety of colorful fresh fruits and veggies is important all year round to keep our immune system strong, and most of us don’t eat enough in the first place. Fruits and veggies contain a plethora of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in varying amounts depending on type, color, season, weather, growing method – so we need to make sure we get as wide a variety as possible, and to be consistent in our consumption year-round.
If you forgot about your New Years Resolutions to start eating healthier, now is the best time to start. Try a 2 week Veggie Bundle Starter Kit or our 2 Week Essentials Bundle Starter Kit to ease yourself into cooking with fresh veggies and fruits, then subscribe. That weekly subscription will encourage you to eat healthier: ya got the food in the fridge already so you're more likely to cook!
3. Eat your produce whole. Okay, but is fresh or frozen produce better?
From a nutrient retention standpoint, fresh is best, frozen is second best. Wash it well, and eat the entire piece of produce, including skin - lots of the phytonutrients live under the skin of the fruit/veggie, so you don’t want to miss out!
Avoid juicing, because that strips the fiber away, and focus on incorporating produce during your meals. You can eat your produce raw in a salad or roasted, but try not to overcook to avoid flavor and nutrient loss.
Try this Shingled Sweet Potatoes With Plum Vinaigrette recipe which is super easy and keeps your sweet potato skins on.
4. Load up on local + seasonal produce
Locally grown food is likely much higher in Vitamin C than anything shipped from across the country or imported. Vitamin C is key for our immune function, and is lost fairly quickly once plants are harvested, so the closer to the source we eat them, the better! There have also been studies that show Vitamin C levels have been depleted in our vegetables by 30% on average due to depleted soil from conventional agriculture.
Vitamin C is found in significant quantities in almost every kind of produce, especially leafy greens, bell peppers, berries, etc. You truly don’t need Vitamin C supplements at all if you’re eating 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and veggies daily.
5. The major immune-boosters produce are…
a. Vitamin C - found in significant quantities in almost every kind of produce, especially leafy greens, bell peppers, berries, etc. You truly don’t need Vitamin C supplements at all if you’re eating 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and veggies daily, particularly locally sourced produce.
b. Vitamin E – larger amounts found in almonds, nuts, seeds, but also available in beet greens, collards, pumpkin, red bell pepper, asparagus
c. Vitamin A – anything colorful – red and orange – carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash
d. Folate – beans, peas and dark leafy greens
e. Iron – Beans, broccoli, kale, other dark leafy greens
f. Selenium -garlic, broccoli, nuts
g. Zinc – whole grains, nuts, seeds, shellfish, beef, poultry, pork, whole grains
h. Vitamin D – best source is the sun, sometimes irradiated mushrooms or you may need to take a supplement for this one
As always, wash your hands + produce extra well, especially before eating, and keep a reasonable distance from others, especially in tight quarters like in the subway. There might be a shortage of hand sanitizer in the city, but there are other ways to guard against sickness — through healthy, safe eating practices.
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