5-Holiday-FoodsNothing can put a damper on the holidays more than having a sick child. The good news is that eating a healthy, balanced diet during festive season can help protect you and your family from infections. Here are five seasonal favorites that research shows have cold and flu-fighting properties.  How many will be on your holiday menu?

 

1. ALMONDS

Research shows that compounds present in the skin of almonds can actually detect viruses (the type that lead to cold and flu) and help increase the sensitivity of immune system T-cells, which are one of the main defenses against viruses. Almonds also contain many beneficial antioxidants and are an excellent source of vitamin E, zinc and selenium, nutrients essential for the immune system.

How to Enjoy:

Almonds are a great snack or as part of a trail mix. Try them toasted and chopped into side dishes, like a classic green bean and toasted almonds. They also add texture to rice-based sides and can be chopped and used as a topping for sweet desserts.

2. BRUSSELS SPROUTS (..AND BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER)

Research shows that phytonutrients present in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts improve the effectiveness of immune system cells known as lymphocytes. What’s more, these veggies have strong antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.

How to Enjoy:

Brussels sprouts are best when they’re not overcooked, so roasting and sauteeing them are generally better than boiling or steaming. Try roasting them with olive oil and salt and finish with freshly grated Parmsan cheese. A classic holiday side dish is roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta and balsamic vinegar.

3. MUSHROOMS

Mushrooms have also been shown to help stimulate immunity by increasing the production and activity of white blood cells, which help you fight off infection. Additionally, mushrooms are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D—the sunshine nutrient that most Americans don’t get enough of in the winter.

How to Enjoy:

Mushrooms are great roasted, in stuffing or pilaf. You can also make stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer that will be sure to impress your guests.

4. ONIONS

Onions are more than flavor-enhancers to dishes. As members of the allium family of veggies—which also include leeks, garlic, shallots and scallions—onions are rich in sulphur-containing compounds that help protect against chronic disease.  In addition, the flavonoids in these veggies, including quercetin, allicin and anthocyanins, have anti-inflammatory effects that fight infection and bacteria.

 

How to Enjoy:

Many recipes call for onions but to get the most of them, increase the amount by 1 ½ times.  Be sure to include them with your roasted turkey or chicken, in stuffing or try sautéed Brussels sprouts with bacon and onions.

 

5. YOGURT

Yogurt contains live active cultures (called probiotics) that help create an optimal balance of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract.  Since some 70% percent of the cells that make up the immune system are located within the GI tract, a healthy gut equals improved immunity.

 

How to Enjoy:

Use nonfat and lowfat plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in your mashed potatoes or holiday dips.  You can also freeze it and enjoy in place of ice cream on top of sweet fruit crumbles or crisps.

Caroline Didlake earned her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Sciences from California State University, Chico. Caroline has experience working with low income families through the Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion. She believes in making nutrition fun and accessible to everyone. In her free time you will find her surfing our California coastline, experimenting with healthy recipes and going for early morning runs before work.

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