As we head into week four of our self-isolation and “new normal” it’s important to focus on the things that are within our control. Just as we need to continue to focus on washing our hands and practicing social distancing, we must also lean into our body’s amazing defense systems, particularly the immune system. We have the ability to eat to beat disease, and in this case, ward off viruses. Nutritional deficiencies in the diet can break down the immune system. As you have more time at home, lean into the ability to feed your body with the nutrients that it needs to function properly. Keep in mind that food is only one part of the equation, and in order to fully take care of the immune system you must also get sufficient rest, keep your stress levels down, and engage in regular physical activity.
A few of my top immune-boosting foods include:
- Foods high in vitamin C, like broccoli, oranges, guava, and strawberries
- Pomegranate juice
- Tea and coffee (for general health)
I add as many of these foods, as well as the entire list of over 200 mentioned in my book, as I can on a daily basis. It’s very important to note though that there is not one superfood for preventing disease. It is very important to include a variety of healthy foods for a diverse diet while avoiding ultra processed foods and lowering your intake of red meat.
Immune Boosting Recipes
These recipes feature two of my favorite immune-boosting foods: broccoli and mushrooms. Broccoli contains immune-boosting vitamin C and sulforaphane, a bioactive that has shown to have many benefits to the body, including anti-cancer activity. Mushrooms have been shown to increase IgA (immunoglobulin A), a natural antibody that exists in the mucous membrane of the GI tract and is an important factor for preventing viral infections.
Lemony Broccoli Salad
Serves 6, as a side
- 1 large head of broccoli, cut into 1 inch florets, stems peeled and sliced
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 small shallot, minced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and stems and cook until bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the broccoli under cold water until cooled; pat dry.
In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with the vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Add the broccoli, toss to coat and serve
Risotto With Mushrooms and Sweet Potato
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 cups mixed small mushrooms (such as crimini or shiitake), sliced into thick pieces
- 1 sweet potato, peeled, chopped into ¼ inch cubes
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1½ cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup white wine
- 4½ cups vegetable broth, warmed
- 1 tbsp butter or plant-based butter alternative
- 2 tbsp flat parsley, finely chopped
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
- Salt and black pepper
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil under moderate-low heat. Saute garlic and shallots until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add 1 tbsp butter and under moderate heat, saute mushrooms and leaves from thyme sprigs until mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add diced sweet potato and saute another 2-3 minutes.
Take out one third of the mushroom/sweet potato mixture and reserve to add later. Under moderate-high heat, add remaining 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan, then add Arborio rice and stir to coat every grain of rice, about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed.
Add the heated broth gradually, about ½ cup at a time, stirring continuously to combine with the rice, only adding more when the liquid has been absorbed. Total cooking time should be 15-20 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of the parley and fold into the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Plate into bowls, top with reserved mushroom and sweet potato, then add grated Parmesan cheese and parsley.