October - How to Boost Your Immune System
- Checking both of your macro- and micro-nutrient intake is always a good choice to boost your system; both are easily obtained from food. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, while micronutrients include minerals and vitamins!
Welcome to autumn! As the fall season brings us colorful leaves and pumpkin spice treats, it also marks a time to strengthen your immune system and say no to all kinds of fall ailments. Checking both of your macro- and micro-nutrient intake is always a good choice to boost your system; both are easily obtained from food. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, while micronutrients include minerals and vitamins. All are important for a strong immune system, especially for the antioxidants (Vitamin C and E) that help fight against viruses.
- Carbohydrates (carbs): Carbohydrates are critical to your immune system, as they are the main energy source for responding to and fighting viruses. Your body will increase it’s metabolic rate once infected and turn on the immune pathways to fight the invader. Compared to the refined (processed) carbohydrates, the complex carbohydrates are richer in dietary fiber and help stabilize blood sugar, which keep your system stronger. Examples of complex carbohydrates are whole-grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables. See the examples in this resource: Complex carbohydrates list
Note: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends 45-65% of your daily calorie intake for all age and sex groups come from carbohydrates (300grams/day for a 2,000 calorie diet).
- Proteins: Proteins are the major component of body tissues and a deficit can impair the thymus function, which, then, decreases the amount of T cells that kill the invading viruses or bacteria. A protein called “cytokine” is also used by the immune cells to work for immune response. Among all types of proteins, the essential amino acids are required to build and maintain your body, which can be obtained from food sources. For example, chicken breast, salmon, prawns, eggs are a few animal-based proteins. Quinoa, tofu, edamame, beans, nuts and seeds are some examples of plant-based protein sources for vegetarians.
Note: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) suggests 10-35% proteins of your daily calorie intake (50-175 grams/day for a 2,000 calorie diet). The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein in adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight.
- Fats: Fats are stored as energy in the body and essential to stimulate hormones in the metabolic pathways. Your body also needs dietary fat to provide fuel for the cells to regulate the immune response. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in anti-inflammatory function and are easily obtained from food sources, like walnuts, chia seeds, avocados, kidney beans, salmon, and tuna.
Note: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) suggests limiting the consumption of saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day.
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits are always come to mind as the good source of vitamin C, including oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruits, pomelos, and so many more! Check out this detailed list: Types of citrus fruits. Other vitamin C fruit choices are strawberries, kiwis, and papaya. Vegetable choices are spinach, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, and Brussels sprouts.
Fun fact: You’ll get better absorption of iron when pairing an iron-rich food with a vitamin C-rich food in your meal!
- Vitamin E: Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, for example, sunflower seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts, and almonds. Other food choices include avocados, mangos, prawns, salmon, butternut squash, and broccoli.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average adult (14+ yo) needs to consume 15 milligrams of Vitamin E per day. A handful of peanuts contains 2.4 milligrams.
- Vitamin B12: Animal products are the major source of vitamin B12, such as red meat, poultry, fish, milk and dairy products, eggs, and seafood. Plant-based foods do not naturally contain vitamin B12, but some products are fortified, notably cereals. Other plan products contain small amounts of B12: shiitake mushrooms, nori (dried edible seaweed), tempeh (fermented soybean cake) and nutritional yeast
Reminder: Inadequate levels in vitamin B12 can alter immune response by interfering with metabolic processes. According to the NIH, the average adult (14+ yo) needs to consume 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12 per day. A quarter cup of nutritional yeast contains 17.6 micrograms.
- Magnesium: A huge variety of foods are rich in magnesium including bananas, potatoes, cocoa, figs, black beans, spinach, Swiss chard (dark leafy green), almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Since magnesium is one of the factors for antibody synthesis, it can directly affect the immune response. Therefore, adequate levels of magnesium, which range 400-420 milligrams for male and 310-360 milligrams for female, are crucial to maintain your immune system.
- Zinc: Zinc is in various types of foods including leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, asparagus), meats (red meat and poultry), nuts and seeds (cashew, sesame and pumpkin seeds), seafood (crab, lobster, scallops, oysters), and whole grains (oats, rice, quinoa). It plays a role in the growth and function of white blood cells, which are known to stimulate the immune system. It is suggested to consume 11 milligrams of zinc for adult male and 8 milligrams of zinc for adult female per day. 1 cup spinach, cooked, contains 1.4 milligrams.
Here are a couple of recipe suggestions to help you include these nutrients:
Mix & Match smoothie bowl recipe (1 serving): serve as your breakfast/snacks
1 cup of fruit: strawberries, kiwis, mangos, lemons, oranges, and/or grapefruits
½ cup of liquid: dairy/ soy/ hazelnut/ pea milk, citrus fruit juice or yogurt
1 tbsp of nut butter: peanut/ almond/ sunflower butter
Topping: choices of nuts, seeds, dried/raw fruits, cereals, avocado
- Blend the fruits, liquid, a banana, and 2 tsp of honey (or to taste) until you have a yogurt-like texture.
- Add the nut butter and any toppings to enrich your smoothie bowl.
Refreshing salmon salad recipe (4 servings):
1 tbsp of sunflower oil 1 tomato
1 clove of garlic 1 butternut squash, roasted
½ tsp of salt 1 avocado
½ tsp of black pepper 12oz of kale
4 (6oz ea) salmon fillets 12oz of spinach
1 lemon 1 tbsp of lemon herb vinaigrette
1 bell pepper
- Mince the garlic and squeeze the lemon into juice.
- Season the salmon fillets with sunflower oil, minced garlic, salt, black pepper, and lemon juice for 15 minutes.
- Pan-fry the salmon for 5 minutes on each side and set aside once cooked.
- Slice the bell pepper and dice the tomato, butternut squash, and avocado.
- Mix the kale and spinach with the ingredients prepared in step 4.
- Put the salmon on top of the mixed salad.
- Drizzle the salmon salad evenly with lemon herb vinaigrette.
Seasonal Foods and Recipes
This is an easy-making appetizer, which is very low in calories and perfect to pair with any types of main course. The crunchiness of jicama will make you feel fresh from the start!
Roasted Carrot and Beet Soup
This unique combination of antioxidant and fibre is one of the healthy menus in the house. The color can also make your days full of joyful!
Blueberry Barbecued Chicken
If you are craving for a sweet and savory taste, this recipe can be your next meal! The chicken is also good source of protein that helps you reach the daily nutrient requirements.
One-Pot Red Beans and Rice
Try this New Orleans famous dish to add variety to your daily menu! The addition of beans and vegetables can make-up for your nutrient balanced diet and the seasoning is absolutely the key to upgrade the taste to another level.
Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal Recipe
If you are looking for dessert but worried about the calories, this is relatively healthy choice for your teatime! It also provides source of calcium, vitamin A and C, which helps you achieve the goal of “eat healthy”.