The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
My mom always told me to eat my fruits and veggies, but she never really gave a good reason, at least not one that satisfied me enough to hop on board without a fight. I saw them as tasteless and boring, but that’s only because my taste buds weren’t conditioned to appreciate their vast array of flavors.
Fast forward to today and I can’t get enough of them! A big piece of my love for fresh produce stems from knowing how truly powerful they are for the body, especially for the immune system. To benefit from their healing power, consider adopting Club Fx Pillar #2: eat the rainbow, at least one fruit and two vegetables every day.
Check out a few of the best immune-strengthening fruits and veggies that you’ll want to include in your diet every week.
Asparagus and Broccoli: In addition to the zinc-filled leafy greens mentioned here, other good sources of zinc are asparagus and broccoli. Zinc is an essential mineral that helps protect against viral infections. When a virus enters your body it tries to copy itself, but zinc inhibits this viral replication. Try adding broccoli and asparagus to your next veggie stir-fry!
Citrus, Peppers and Berries: These foods are rich in vitamin C, an immune-strengthening antioxidant offering frontline defense against disease. Vitamin C also produces hydrogen peroxide in the cells, which acts as a weapon to kill invaders and protect your body.
I know you’re familiar with oranges, red peppers, and blueberries, but what about camu camu? Native to the Amazon rainforest, this sour berry is typically found in powdered form and can easily be incorporated into smoothies for added immune benefits.
- Citrus Recommendations: clementine, grapefruit, kumquats, lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines
- Berry Recommendations: acai berries, camu camu, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, raspberries, strawberries
For meal inspiration, try this recipe for Plant-Powered Guacamole-Stuffed Peppers served with seed crackers like Flackers or Mary’s Gone Crackers. You can also add grapefruit or orange segments to salads and blend fresh or frozen berries into smoothies.
Apples and Alliums: Quercetin is a natural pigment found in apples and alliums. It strengthens the immune system by serving as a powerful balancing agent. In other words, it works to restore normal immune function. Quercetin also acts as a shuttle for zinc, helping to transport it into the cells where it can stop any viruses from replicating. Be sure not to peel your apples, as quercetin is most concentrated in the skin. An apple a day really can keep the doctor away!
- Allium Recommendations: onions, garlic, leeks, shallots
For meal and snack inspiration, try dipping apples slices into Heinen’s freshly ground walnut butter, add fresh minced garlic or shallots to homemade salad dressings, or blending an un-peeled apple into this Apple Celery Smoothie.
When thinking about immune health, look to vitamin C-rich berries, peppers and citrus as your immune system defenders, quercetin-rich apples and alliums as immune-balancers and zinc-rich asparagus and broccoli as virus-blockers. Remember, consistency is key when it comes to building a healthy immune system, so get into the habit of enjoying fresh produce every day and at every meal.
For personalized guidance for building your immune strength, discover the VitalHealth Optimization Package, now available at the Personalized Nutrition Center at Heinen’s Mayfield Village.