FOOD FIRST for Cold & Flu Season
Well, we have officially arrived at Cold Season! Now it’s time to hunker down and avoid all contact with the outside world, right? Wrong! It’s time to build your immune system up. Think of immunity as a house.That house is held up by four essential pillars which include exercise, sleep, mindfulness and last but not least of course, nutrition (duh). Your nutrition plays a major role in how strong and resilient your immune system is. There is simply no substitute that we know of at this time that beats eating a variety of quality, minimally processed foods, which are mostly plant-based, Every. Single. Day. You cannot expect to have a healthy functional immune system without proper nutrition.
Here are a few of our nutrition tips to help you stay healthy and cheerful throughout the season.
Eat the rainbow. There are some key players when it comes to immune function but there is no one superstar. Ensuring that your nutrition is based on a varied diet of all different foods and food groups. Focus on fruits, vegetables and include as many colors as possible. Plants should be the majority of your plate and will provide nourishment to your body with a mixture of fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that help fight off those pesky invaders.
Healthy fats help absorb essential vitamins and nutrients. They also provide material for healthy cell function, like reduce inflammation, reduce cell death, and regenerate antioxidants.
Fiber is king and it’s essential for a healthy microbiome. Fiber is the fuel for the good bacteria that lives in your gut. 70-80% of your immune’s system lives in your gut. Go figure. So healthy gut = strong immune system. A diet rich in fiber is so extremely important for not just your immune system, but for your whole WELLTH.
Vitamin D3. If there is one supplement out there that we may recommend during this time of year it’s good old Vitamin D3. The reason being that your body absorbs and activates most of its Vitamin D through sun exposure. On top of that, it’s very difficult to get adequate amounts through food. During the winter months, UV light is weaker and it’s easier for people to become deficient. Perhaps most well known for regulating calcium and phosphorous, Vitamin D is actually a hormone that has a hand in many different essential functions of health - including immunity. Studies show that in the face of pathogens like the cold or flu, our killer T cells are activated by Vitamin D. Think of the whole thing as an army going into battle and Vitamin D is the General. Nothing moves until the General signs off. Interventions have shown that those with adequate Vitamin D levels are substantially less likely to come down with the flu - including children. Just note that if you do decide to supplement, make sure it’s the active D3 form and that it comes from a consumer tested brand.
*A note on supplements here while we’re here. Nutritional supplements can play an important role in supporting improved health for vulnerable people, such as children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with health conditions that compromise their immunity. It’s most important to keep in mind that what you eat, not what you supplement with, is what is most important in building your defenses against winter germs. Supplements are not an antidote to unhealthy eating.
With all that said, what better way to fight off a cold than to warm up with a batch of spicy, warming, antioxidant rich noodle soup? Here’s our recipe for Thai Chicken Curry Ramen Noodle Soup made from our leftover Thanksgiving turkey stock.
Thai Chicken Curry Ramen Noodle Soup
*adapted from half baked harvest
4 cups stock (I used leftover turkey stock but chicken works for providing immune fortifying amino acids!)
1 can coconut milk
¼ cup low sodium tamari
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp honey (it’s antimicrobial so it kills bacterial invaders!)
⅓ cup peanut butter (recommend trader joe’s valencia creamy peanut butter)
⅓ cup thai red curry paste (spicy! + antioxidants!)
1 lb chicken breast
1 cup portobello mushrooms (only plant based source of Vitamin D + if you let them sit in the sun that increases the vitamin content)
1 cup shredded carrots (Vitamin A!!!)
2 peppers of your choice (I used 1 red bell and 1 poblano for extra spice)
3 tbsp fresh grated ginger (antioxidants + antimicrobial)
2 tbsp minced garlic (more antioxidants + antimicrobial)
1 package ramen noodles
Juice of 1 lime
3 cups Arugula
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 chopped radishes
2 chopped scallion stems
Water as needed
In a soup pot, combine stock, coconut milk, tamari, fish sauce, peanut butter, honey, curry paste and stir to combine all ingredients over medium heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, peppers, and garlic. Bring to a simmer. After simmering, reduce heat and allow chicken to cook until you can easily shred it.
Once chicken is done, shred into bits. Add back into soup.
Bring soup to boil. Add ramen noodles, lime juice, and basil. Add Arugula last. If needed, add water to pot to reduce saltiness or to make consistency more liquid-y.
Once noodles are cooked, ladle into a bowl. Top with scallion, more basil and diced radish for crunch.