This is the first in a series for parents and their children. As with seasonal foods, our bodies have different issues over the course of a year. How can we use fresh, local and healthy foods to nourish our bodies to combat illness and strengthen our immune system? Follow me through the seasons as we explore our food/health relationships.
Vitamin C strengthens the immune system by increasing the production of immune cells. A strong immune system will help to prevent a cold or flu virus from taking up residence in your body, or will shorten the duration of your cold or flu. Fruits and vegetables are the best source of vitamin C in a fresh food diet. Vitamin C fortified foods are also available on the market, however, if your goal is to eat fresh, local, seasonal foods, you can find plenty of vitamin C year round. Fortunately, during the peak of the cold and flu season when the weather in many area is cold, oranges and other citrus fruits (all of which are high in vitamin C) are in season.
Fruits highest in vitamin C include papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, brussels (yes, it’s Brussels not Brussel) sprouts, kiwi fruit, oranges, grapefruit and cantaloupe. See http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=109 for a more complete list of vitamin C rich foods.
Zinc is a mineral found primarily in meats, poultry and seafood well established for its immune enhancing properties. It is touted to shorten the life of a cold. If animal-based products are not a part of your diet, beans are also a fresh and local (if homegrown or purchased from a local farm) source of zinc.
Omega 3 fatty acids (fatty fish/fish oil, flax seed/oil) are a fantastic immune booster. Locally sourced, sustainably raised fatty fish such as tuna or salmon are great sources of omega 3’s. If you have concern over the mercury in fish, look for high quality omega 3 fatty acid supplements. Additionally, ground flax seed or flax oil are a vegetarian alternative to fish oils. Sprinkle some ground flax (tip: buy whole flax and grind yourself) on veggies, yogurt or blend into smoothies.
Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds and dark, leafy greens. In moderate to warm climates, and even in cooler climates, greens such as spinach and kale can be available locally throughout most of the year. Additionally vitamin E can be found in whole grains and vegetable oils. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, working with vitamin C, to help to prevent cells from damage by free radicals (or oxidation).
Try to incorporate foods from each nutrient group every day to keep your kids healthy. Of course you cannot forget proper hand washing and sneezing/coughing into your elbow, etc, to prevent the spread of the cold/flu viruses.
Basic cold-weather Chili (kid-friendly and immune boosting too)
1lb. dried beans (kidney, white, black, pinto – whatever you like, purchased fresh or dried* or canned) – fresh or dried preferred.
16 oz tomatoes (preferably tomatoes you canned or froze last summer)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 seeded jalepeno, optional (I have too many on my plant in the summer, so I freeze the extras which are perfect for winter chili)
olive oil, to saute onion, garlic and celery
2 bay leaves (grown fresh, then dried)
1-2 tsp cumin
1 T dried or fresh oregano
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
other seasonings as desired, i.e. chili powder, celery seed, paprika.
*prepare/hydrate dried beans before making chili
Saute 1/2 onion, garlic, celery, and bay leaves in olive oil. Add beans, tomatoes, 1/2 green pepper, jalepeno, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Let simmer for a few hours. Add 1/2 onion and 1/2 green pepper about 30-60 minutes before serving. Enjoy.
This recipe can also be prepared in a crock pot. Saute onion, garlic, celery and bay as above, then add all ingredients into crock pot and cook on low all day. Add onion and green pepper for the last 30-60 minutes as above.
Eat Fresh. Eat Local. Eat Healthy. KIDS too!