This time of year we could all use a little boost to our immune system - anything to help ward off those germs from the coughers and snifflers who surround us. The best way to improve our immunities is through the consumption of antioxidants that occur naturally in plants and animals.
Being a chef and not a chemist, my highly simplified way of understanding antioxidants and their importance is to consider them the good cops. When good atoms go bad and become free radicals, they start to wreak havoc on healthy cells and can damage or even kill those cells. The good cop antioxidants attack the free radicals and neutralize them before any damage occurs.
Antioxidants, like good cops, need to be summoned. They don’t just magically arrive on the scene to save the day. The body doesn’t create antioxidants – you have to consume them.
And what’s the best source of antioxidants? Whole foods. Yes, you can buy just about any vitamin in supplement form, but your body just doesn’t absorb the goodness of the nutrients unless they are delivered in their natural form. Getting your vitamins from foods also helps ensure you don’t get too much of a good thing. (Vitamins A and E are eliminated from the body slowly and too much can be toxic.)
The three major antioxidant vitamins are: Beta-carotene (turns into Vitamin A), Vitamin C and Vitamin E. These can be found in plentiful supply in colorful vegetables such as those that are purple, red, orange and yellow.
Good Sources of Antioxidants
Good food sources of antioxidants that also happen to be in season right now include: broccoli, carrots, kale, turnips and turnip greens, beets, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, Brussels sprouts, apples, oranges, chard and nuts.
In addition, red, green and yellow bell peppers are such a good source of vitamin C that even if they aren’t in season, it’s worth adding some to your diet if you’re feeling a little under the weather.
Other antioxidants that may help boost immunity include zinc and selenium. These can be found in lean proteins (seafood, fish, chicken, beef), sunflower seeds, eggs, mushrooms, and grains such as oats, brown rice and barley. Yogurt is also considered a swarthy fighter of bad bacteria.
Other Feel Good Foods
In addition to these great flu-fighting foods, in a separate article we talk about foods that are good for the mind as well as the body. Adding all of these foods to your diet will ensure a healthy, happy body and soul.
Here's to a healthy and happy New Year!