Part One: Citrus
My top five immune boosting foods are citrus, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, and ginger. The reasons I use these are for the health benefits, as well as that I love cooking with them as they are all very versatile and you can always find them fresh at any grocery store in your produce section. I will talk about each one of the five foods I mentioned, break down the healthy facts for you and why they benefit your immune system, offer ideas for how to use the foods to get the most out of them, and will add some recipes that I use at home with these foods for my family, and even the dog. I will go over all of this in five blog posts, one for each food, and will also have a list of other immune boosting foods that pair nicely with each of my top five favorites so you can get creative at home and play around in the kitchen or BBQ. As the warmer season is coming so are the fresh fruits and veggies!
Citrus is one of favorite if not my all-time favorite food use to in cooking, it has so much flavour and sweetness, tart, and full of zest (yes pun intended), not to mention Vitamin C. It is not only Vitamin C citrus is packed with, but also Vitamin B, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, and Copper, as well as being a high soluble fiber (the kind that helps lower cholesterol). So there are lots of reasons to be eating whole citrus fruits. Let’s not confuse this with store bought juice, we are talking whole fruits that you peel and eat. Just one medium an orange can give you all the vitamin C you need for the day, check out this link to see the nutritional data https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1966/2.
So we know one medium orange a day will give us all of the Vitamin C we need, but maybe we don’t want an orange or you don’t want to eat whole tree fruit. For a tasty change let’s talk citrus varieties and what we can do with citrus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the citrus family we have oranges, mandarins, clementine’s, tangelos, limes, grapefruits, lemons, yuzus, pomelos, and citron plus all the varieties for each of then groups I must mentioned. Now some these might be new to you or not easy to find at your local grocery store, not to worry as we are going to focus on oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruits, which are the four main varieties you can always find at most grocery stores.
Before we dive into what to do with all of these zesty fruits I want to mention that I will be talking about using these foods raw, as when you cook anything you change the nutritional value of the food and we want to make sure that we are getting all the value to help boost the immune system. In saying that, you can still get value out of the food once it is cooked, it will just be less so you would have to eat more of it or more often. Let’s dive in!
For breakfast let’s keep it simple and clean. Half a grapefruit is old school and seems a little out dated, I actually love it and have found ways to spice it up or add into other items. Take that half grapefruit, peel and cut it up, get some granola, add in low fat yogurt (which is another immune boosting food, adding a bit of Vitamin A and Zinc to your body), sprinkle a few almonds on there (oh yes! Almonds are great with high amounts of vitamin E that acts as an antioxidant in your body and helps the immune system function), lastly some berries (berries are another antioxidant and help prevent injury to cells with all the vitamin C, bioflavonoids and phytochemicals they have in them, especially dark berries like blueberries) to round off this super bowl of immune fighting breakfast. Basically you have just made an immune boosting and delicious breakfast by adding five things that for the most part are common in household fridges.
We are off to a great start to the day with our granola bowl, let’s keep boosting the immune system with lunch. Orange salad, made easy with just a few ingredients and easy to whip up. Peel and slice that orange up add into a bowl, we will add in some Arugula (which is also great for the immune system as it has Diindolylmethane a phytonutrient, which is found in cruciferous vegetables), open up some canned tuna you have in the cupboard (good source of omega-3 fatty acids, also high in Zinc, Selenium and protein that are all good for that immune system to function), slice a little onion (onions help too, with Vitamin C, Selenium, sulfur compounds, Zinc, and a great source of Quercetin) and cucumber (cucumber has Vitamins A, B, C, K also has Manganese, Copper, and Potassium which all play an important role in maintaining your immune system). The orange is sweet and juicy so we will just drizzle a little olive oil over and mix with a pinch of salt and pepper for flavour. Another no-cook, easy, immune-boosting meal with only 6 ingredients and again items that are for the most part common to have at home.
If you’re like me you might get very snacky in the afternoon, especially being couch-bound at the moment. Healthy snacks are key and can also be boosting to your immune system. Chips are a great snack, so let’s citrus them up with some citrus salsa and tortilla chips! I absolutely love my tortilla chips and salsa and now I can feel good about it! I will add the recipe for this salsa at the bottom of the blog because it is delicious and easy to tackle at home, but let’s talk about the ingredients and why I chose them.
Tomatoes also have Vitamin C, Potassium, and are high in fiber making an all-around good food for your body and another one of our immune boosting food list. Tomatillos also give you a dose of Vitamin C, Potassium, and Niacin which helps turn food into energy. The avocado is a good source of Glutathione, which is a really good antioxidant associated with immune system health and needed for the lymphoid cells. Garlic is a great one, it’s in my top five for its health benefits, but also because it scares away vampires. This link is a great read about the benefits of garlic for your health https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/garlic-fights-colds-and-flu
Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs to use and is packed with antioxidants, and those are Terpinene, Quercetin, and Tocopherols. Jalapeños, rich with Vitamins A and C, also have Potassium and an antioxidant called Carotene, as well as Folate, Vitamin K and B. it’s not just a spicy pepper, after all it spices up your immune system too, ha! Olive oil is just not good for the skin, with two or three tablespoons a day it can help boost that immune system as it is a good source of antioxidants. What a snack, packed full of immune boosting foods and foods that we use all the time, better yet it is raw so we are going to get all the nutrients we can from the food. The recipe is easy and straight forward, chop, mix, rest, then… snack!
So far we have covered breakfast, lunch, and a snack, now it’s time for dinner with citrus. Again we are looking to keep the foods as raw as we can so that we are getting the most benefit. So with it being spring and getting nice outside, the sun staying up later we will bust out that BBQ and get grilling with lemon and ginger grilled chicken. We are going to be using two of my top five immune boosting foods, citrus and ginger. We will have a marinade for the chicken which will be cooked and will also brush fresh citrus on it after as well.
So we already know about some of the ingredients in this recipe, the lemon citrus, olive oil and the onions, but we also have some new players in the mix now like ginger. Ginger has high antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, plus it’s also great for soothing nausea and helps digestive issues as well. We have also used honey. Honey has heaps of medicinal properties and has been used around the world for years and years to treat people, but we are looking at it for its antioxidant and antimicrobial aspects. If you can, skip the common honey you buy from off the shelf in a grocery store. Don’t get me wrong it still has the same properties, just not as high a concentration as if you buy it from your local honey farm. In saying that, when I was working on farms many years ago I had the chance to work with some bee keepers and one of the key advice I took away from that experience was to eat honey daily from bees in your area, as they collect pollen from plants in the region. This will help fight seasonal allergies to those plants that pollenate and cause you discomfort. So dinner is looking pretty immune boosting now as well!
Well it seems citrus can work into a daily diet fairly easy and has a lot of immune-boosting friends paired with it as well. Citrus is just one of the five foods I will be talking about over the weeks to come! Next week we will be diving into red bell pepper and other peppers, talking breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner again.
Good luck with your citrus creations and also check out the options we have for dining at Sparkling Hill.