Escalated prices, low availability, lackluster options in the produce aisle…. These are some of the reasons our winter diets tend to be lacking in the fruit and veggie department. Even if these obstacles were absent, who would choose a salad or smoothie over a bubbly casserole or baked confectionery when the cold winds are nipping at your nose and the sub-zero temps have you fearing for your toes? Despite our desperate desires for comfort food by the fireplace, it is essential to provide your body with quality nutrition with those troublesome cold and flu viruses lurking around every corner.
Fortunately, the produce section isn’t your only option for nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce has gotten a bad rap for being “processed” or “less healthy” than the fresh produce, but this is far from true. Almost all of the “fresh” stuff is actually harvested long before reaching full maturity and chemically manipulated to perfect ripeness for the grocery store shelf, often losings many of the valuable micronutrients and phytochemicals along the way. Frozen fruits and veggies, on the other hand, are harvested at peak ripeness and immediately snap frozen to preserve the quality and nutrient content. Who would have thought that frozen is actually fresher? A study of vitamin C content found that frozen green beans and carrots were nearly identical to the freshly harvested vegetables, and that frozen spinach was superior to all market produce (Favell 1998). Not only are frozen veggies a good choice nutritionally, but they are inexpensive, SUPER easy to store, and the perfect additions to casseroles and soups.
And there’s no better way to fill your belly and keep warm this season than a hearty soup. Not only can you ramp up the vitamin and mineral content by throwing in your fresh/frozen produce, but dried herbs are superfoods that make your stew both tastier and healthier. Oregano, sage, rosemary, turmeric, cumin, basil…. These ingredients will not only have your mouth watering, but they support your overall health and immunity by providing bioactive components with antioxidant properties and other biological activities. And when you’re ready to bake, don’t forget about spices such as cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg, which also harbor numerous health-promoting compounds.
Maintaining a healthy diet packed with vitamins, minerals, and bioactive components all year round is of utmost importance. If you are looking for a little extra support for your immune defenses through supplementation, here are some of the nutrients you should focus on:
---Vitamin C. This one’s a no-brainer. Vitamin C is a major antioxidant in the body and provides support to immune cells. It also has antihistamine effects and may help with bronchial relaxation.
---Zinc. This trace element is involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions and is a crucial regulator of the immune system.
---Probiotics. Probiotics support the health of numerous bodily systems, including the immune system. Probiotic strains have been found to restore depressed NK cell activity, which is needed to fight viruses and other threats.
---Botanicals. Among other health benefits, botanicals such a curcumin, olive leaf, and other polyphenol containing extracts demonstrate anti-viral and anti-microbial actions that support a healthy immune system.
by: Danielle Ashley