Immunity Boosting foods

With cold and flu season upon us, we do what we can to keep the fevers and sniffles at bay.  This is the time of the year to stock your kitchen with immunity boosting foods.  Experts tend to agree that protein, zinc, magnesium, healthy fats, and Vitamins A, C, and E play a key role in building our immunity to cold and flu bugs.

One of my favorite immunity boosting foods is coconut.  I used to avoid coconut based on its high saturated fat content, but no longer.  Once I learned more about its plant-based properties, I came to appreciate its immunity-boosting characteristics and culinary uses.  Unlike the saturated fats found in animal-based foods, the saturated fat found in coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids, which immediately go to work in your system fighting unwelcome bacteria, fungus and microbes.

I substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil in everyday cooking.  It has a high smoke point, making it great for sautéing vegetables or for stir-fry.  Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to smoothies for improved texture and a nutritional boost.  I use coconut oil as a substitute for butter in non-dairy (vegan) baking.  Since it is a saturated fat, coconut butter is solid at room temperature and becomes liquid when heated.  At room temperature, it performs like butter when creamed with sugar for the base of a cookie, cake or muffin recipe.  It has a faint smell and taste of coconut, but not enough to flavor your food.

I also use shredded, unsweetened coconut in cookies and cakes.  Unlike most sweetened shredded coconut typically for sale in the baking aisle, this coconut is dry and does not contain additives or preservatives – which is why I like it.  Since it is dry and unsweetened, it performs differently in recipes than your typical bagged shredded sweetened coconut.  I make my own shredded sweetened coconut using the natural product.  How?  Start by making simple syrup.  Combine 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil and stir it until the sugar is dissolved completely.  Remove the saucepan from the heat.  To the syrup, add up to two cups of natural shredded coconut.  Mix it thoroughly to combine and let it soak for 30 minutes.  At the end of 30 minutes, drain the coconut in a fine mesh strainer.  The drained coconut is ready to use just like the store-bought kind, only better.  It will last in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.  If you put a bowl under the strainer while draining the coconut, you will capture truly delicious coconut simple syrup!  I imagine it would make a great addition to smoothies or hot cocoa.

Another favorite immunity booster is garlic. It has exceptional anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Nuts and dark leafy greens are good sources of magnesium.  Also high on my list are sweet potatoes (for Vitamin A); pumpkin (for beta carotene); salmon, tuna, flax, walnuts (for omega-3 fatty acids); yogurt (for live cultures); and, beef, pork, poultry, milk (for protein and zinc).  Of course, this is not a complete list of every immune-boosting food, but it is a great and manageable start.  It is also important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. I find it harder to do this time of year, but consider it a challenge well worth the effort.  See my guide to winter produce for inspiration and ideas.

By the way, those in the know generally agree that there are certain foods that sabotage our immune systems including alcohol, sugar, and unhealthy fats.  I know what you are thinking.  The holiday season is upon us and avoiding these saboteurs only becomes even more difficult.  Just do your best and make good choices most of the time – your health depends on it!

Kristen Desmond

Read Kristen’s Recent Blogs & Guides

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  1. Love the coconut tip Kristen!

    I just used the oil for the first time in making a stir fry a few days ago. Old ways are being changed and adding in new and healthier choices.

    Thank you for sharing for I am loving the new tips!

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