By now, of course, you haveread up on the corona virus pandemic, raided your local grocery for hand sanitizer, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and wipes for surfaces. Or perhaps you checked the depths of the cabinets in your kitchen and bath and found, as I did, unopened containers of various products that kill bacteria and viruses in minutes, such as hydrogen peroxide, bleach, certain Lysol supplies. Hopefully, you have read up on using them wisely because the warnings that mixing improperly or using inappropriately are justified.
You are probably checking on friends and family, especially the most at-risk folk, and staying inside as ordered and besides, the restaurants and cafés and bars closed. Surely you are keeping, or trying to keep, at least 6 feet distant from others when you do venture out. And, of course, your hands are perennially under warm water, soapy, and being scrubbed to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or some other 20-second song.
But there is one more action you can take to add to your personal protection against the virus. You can begin now to boost your immune system by adding to your meals foods that do just that. To be clear, supporting your immune system is not a guarantee you won’t get sick, or a treatment or cure if you do. It is an easy step you can take to possibly stack the odds a little to your favor and there are no side effects from trying, unless you have certain allergies or sensitivities.
Studies have shown that the immune system, faced with the current corona virus, a threat it has not met before, produces higher quantities of the cells that attack and kill invaders. It goes into overdrive. And it needs specific fuel to energize that overdrive.
There are several foods known from various research to aid the immune system, but basically, think BACED plus Z. The acronym means vitamins B, A, C, E, D and the mineral Zinc. The system also needs a dash of selenium and copper, some iron and omega 3 fatty acids, and high-quality protein such as found in lean red meat and in eggs.
You can pretty much access these ingredients, and other necessities like gut-friendly soluble fiber, the kind found in oats, for example, with a diet of fresh or frozen fruit, colorful red, yellow, green vegetables, leafy greens, garlic, peas and lentils and beans, fortified milk, tuna and salmon, and the lean red meat and eggs mentioned previously. But in addition, add strength to your immune function through the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects of several common spices. Turmeric, nutmeg, ginger, clove and cinnamon fit the bill admirably, and add flavor along with promoting health. The following recipes use immune system-friendly foods. Shiitake mushrooms, for instance, are loaded with antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal compounds that have been shown to help boost immune function.
Zinc is found in various foods, including lean red meats, eggs, seafood, peas, and beans.
The time to start toward a fit immune system is now, because fitness doesn’t come right away, or with only a few meals. You can start as quickly as throwing some old-fashioned oats into a bowl, add pinches of ginger, turmeric, etc., some cut-up fresh fruit, half a handful of raisins and/or craisins, nuts, and milk to cover. Stir and set aside in the fridge and in an hour or two, you have a meal or snack that tastes like a dessert and is filling and healthy and inexpensive.
A couple more tips: One, go out in the sun for a while, especially on a warm, humid day. Some studies have noted the virus is less active (though still present) in fresh air and hot, humid conditions, perhaps due to the antiviral effect of the sun’s UV rays.
Two, there are foods that impair the immune system, notably excess sugar, sodas (probably because of the sugar), processed or refined foods (think added salt, sugar, preservatives) and alcohol. Go easy on these to be safer in the uncertain environment of today.
ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
So named because it “marries” green veggies with red meat
1/2 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 C dry breadcrumbs
1 Tbls grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 C minced or diced onion
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp turmeric, to taste
5 3/4 C chicken broth
2 C thinly sliced escarole or spinach, washed
1/2 C uncooked regular or whole wheat pasta, small macaroni or shells or orzo
1/3 C finely chopped carrots
1/4 C diced red or yellow pepper
In a medium bowl, combine meat, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, basil, onion, and garlic powder; shape into 3/4-inch balls. Brown the balls in a fry pan coated lightly with olive oil, turning to heat evenly. Drain when cooked through and set aside.
In large saucepan, heat broth to boiling; stir in escarole, pasta, chopped carrots, red pepper and cooked meatballs. Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook at a slow boil for 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Serves about four and keeps well in refrigerator. When refrigerated, pasta may absorb much of the broth. Add water and heat, stirring, to reconstitute.
EGG ‘NOODLE’ STIR FRY WITH BROCCOLI, MUSHROOMS
Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, the dish also features ginger
5 large eggs, room temperature, beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbls minced ginger (from a 1 1/2-inch piece) or 1Tbls powdered ginger
1 Tbls minced garlic (from 2 to 3 cloves)
8 oz broccoli tops and stems, cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces, about 3 cups
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the bias (1 cup)
1 red, long chile pepper, thinly sliced (1/4 C)
2 Tbls low-sodium soy sauce (gluten free, if desired)
3 Tbls fresh lime juice
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Coat the bottom. Add eggs and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, undisturbed, until edges are set, about 30 seconds. Lift edges with a spatula; tilt pan so runny parts slide to bottom. Continue to cook until golden in places on bottom but still wet on top, about 1 minute. Slide onto a cutting board and let cool slightly, then roll up like a cigar and slice into 1/2-inch-thick “noodles.”
Wipe skillet clean; add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and place over high heat. When oil shimmers, add ginger, garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, and half of scallions. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are golden in places, about 5 minutes. Stir in chile and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 30 seconds. Add soy sauce, lime juice, egg “noodles,” and remaining scallions; toss to combine. Serve. Serves four.
Easy, quick and delicious no matter what berries you use
8 oz fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint vanilla or strawberry ice cream
1/4 C 2% milk, or whole milk
4 pinches ground ginger or to taste
4 pinches ground clove or to taste
Cut strawberries into quarters, if particularly large. Blend half the berries, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup ice cream and 2 Tbsp. milk in blender until smooth. Pour into 2 glasses. Top with one pinch of ginger and one of clove per glass, stirred lightly into shake. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.
Repeat with remaining strawberries, vanilla, ice cream, milk and spices for 2 more glasses. Makes 4 glasses. Serve immediately.
Note: Frozen berries can be used but defrost at least an hour. Any fresh or frozen berry is a healthy addition to a milkshake. Or use more than one for a many berry milkshake.
— by Jean Redstone