Foods that Fight Flu Season

It’s the time of year that many of us dread…flu season. You try to take every precaution you can by washing your hands, sanitizing grocery carts and not touching your face—but sometimes even that isn’t enough to prevent the nasty flu bug! In the past, I would get sick at least once every fall/winter and would always have 1-2 sinus infections on top of that. That was until I changed my diet up a few years ago, and I have enjoyed the last few years sick-free!

Remember, no one single food will make you healthier and improve your immunity. But I do suggest that it may be more beneficial to get your vitamins from your fruits and veggies rather than a packet of Emergen-C.

Get your vitamins from your fruits and veggies rather than a packet of Emergen-C.

Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Veggies

Ideally, your goal is to consume a wide variety of colors when choosing your fruits and veggies. Each color introduces a powerful antioxidant or plant nutrient into your system. For example, red-orange colored produce such as sweet potatoes, squash and carrots are great sources of Vitamin A and beta-carotene while blue, purple and dark red fruits like blueberries, raspberries and cherries deliver phytochemicals such as flavonoids that help reduce inflammation. Vitamin C can be found in red bell peppers, oranges, broccoli, kiwi and strawberries.

Eggs, Nuts and Seeds

These quick bites are good sources of zinc, which helps your T-cells and other immune cells function properly. Swap your afternoon wheat thins or granola bar for a handful of mixed nuts and seeds or even a hardboiled egg or two. In addition to the improved nutrient intake, you’ll also satisfy your hunger better and have more controlled blood sugars by choosing these good protein sources.

Proteins. Eggs, fish, chicken, lean or organic beef

Some studies suggest that inadequate protein intake can weaken the immune system by showing a decrease in the number of T-cells and antibodies being produced. A good goal to work towards is having protein with all your meals and with most of your snack choices.

Fatty fish and avocados

There are two great examples of healthy fats in the diet (omega-3 and omega-9s). Essential fats (fats that the body cannot produce) help decrease inflammation in the body as well as improve the integrity of our cell walls. I’ll explain in the next paragraph why this integrity is so important to immunity!

Immunity begins in the gut.

You gastrointestinal tract is your internal layer of skin. It can protect you from harmful agents invading your circulatory system; however, if its cell wall is compromised, you may be at a greater risk of getting sick this flu season. (This could be related to “leaky gut syndrome or intestinal permeability” however, not all practitioners believe in this concept). I know what you’re thinking—so what are the foods that damage my gut’s lining? Some of the main culprits could be foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates such as candy, juice, soda, cereal, chips, crackers, pretzels, pasta and white bread. Three years ago, I pretty much cut out all of these foods from my diet. Could it be coincidental that I didn’t get sick the same time I cut out processed sugars and starches? Yes. However, I will remind you that I work in health care and am exposed to a lot of sick people on a daily basis during the flu season. In addition to not getting sick the past couple winters, I also noticed that I was less bloated, slept better and had more energy after changing my diet. While my results may differ from others following the same meal plan, it is certainly something to consider if you find yourself chronically getting sick all fall and winter long.

Remember—your immune system is exactly that—a system, not one single entity. To function well, it requires overall balance and harmony between all your health habits: diet, exercise, stress management and sleep.

Amanda  Figge

My Top 2 Kitchen Shortcuts

1. Cutting Fruits

We all know that consuming fresh fruits and veggies is healthier than consuming canned and sometimes frozen varieties; however, one of the downfalls of purchasing fresh produce is that you have to cut it yourself. Most grocery stores offer pre-cut varieties but these items are more costly due to the labor cost factored into the price. I always purchase whole fruit, but sometimes cutting these items can be quite timely! This short tutorial will give you tips on how to decrease your time spent cutting fruit in the kitchen.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_wDZnypJTA]

 

2. Separating the Eggs

I’m not a big proponent for cutting out the yolks in eggs. The yolk is a nutrient powerhouse (choline, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A and D for example) and research finds that the cholesterol found in egg yolks really have no effect on our serum cholesterol levels. However, if you are someone with Chronic Kidney Disease (specifically with stage III or stage IV), you may be recommended to cut back on consumption of egg yolks due to their phosphorus content (a mineral that the kidneys help filter in the blood). They do make egg products without yolks such as Egg Beaters; however this product now contains food dyes and preservatives. In general, the fresher the food item is, the better it is for your body. Here is a quick tip on removing egg yolks from whole eggs.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAp8pEaWB1Y]

Get Eggy Wit It!

Eggs really are egg-traordinary!

Eggs are a wonderful source of vitamins, nutrients and high-quality protein. They are cheap, easily available and can be prepared in a countless number of ways. Unfortunately, eggs have been given a bad reputation due to their natural cholesterol and fat content, which is found specifically in the yolk of an egg.eggs-fe006757a870f68c0c9a48bf958044699860e7b7-s6-c30

“I can’t eat eggs. I have high cholesterol.” This is a statement I have heard many times. It has been long believed that in order to reduce one’s serum cholesterol levels, one should avoid foods that contain cholesterol , specifically the yolk of the egg. Many individuals choose to go with Egg Beaters or egg whites in efforts to consume the high quality protein but without the fat and cholesterol from the egg yolks. However, the yolk is also home to a variety of nutrients that are vital in our diet. Here are a few key points about this great protein source that may help you re-think how you prepare your eggs.

  • Choline: an essential nutrient that promotes cardiovascular and brain function and maintains the integrity or cell membranes. Choline is also a component of phosphotidylcholine and one of its uses is for treatment of high cholesterol. Yes, you read that correctly; a component of the egg yolk can actually help lower one’s cholesterol! Without adequate amounts of phosphotidylcholine, fat and cholesterol can accumulate in the liver.
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These two antioxidants are key players in eye health. Many eye-health supplements include a concoction of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fats; however, research suggests that the lutein found in eggs is absorbed more efficiently than when found in supplemental form. Lutein, which happens to be a carotenoid, is also better absorbed when consumed with a fat source (such as the fat found in the egg yolk). The same goes for all carotenoid sources such as sweet potatoes. This is why I always sauté my sweet potatoes in a small amount of coconut oil.
  • Vitamin B12: This nutrient is essential for blood and nerve health. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products; however there are some foods that are fortified with B12 such as cereals and non-dairy milk substitutes. This is why it is vital for individuals following a vegetarian diet to find a good Vitamin B12 source or take a supplement.blood_ISS_7525_00006

In efforts to reduce calories, many people (including myself) take out the yolks of the eggs or purchase products like Egg Beaters. With knowledge of the healthy benefits of the egg yolk, it would be best to include at least 1 whole egg in the recipe when making an egg dish (omelet, scrambled, hard boiled). Items like Egg Beaters are more processed and contain preservatives, food dye and added chemicals so in my opinion, it is much better to go with the natural product.

 

 

Figge’s Favorite Groceries

grocery shoppingWith the success of  Figge’s Favorite Things blog post, I thought I would follow up with a list of some of my favorite foods that frequently occupy my shopping list. Years ago, my diet heavily consisted of processed luncheon meats, frozen dinners and snack bars. Today, fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are typically what fill up my grocery cart. This was no overnight process, but slowly, I began to step outside my comfort zone and taught myself how to prepare and cook with fresh ingredients. To stay healthy, I rely on clean, minimally processed foods. Combined with a healthy dose of physical activity each week, clean eating helps keep my cholesterol down, energy up and promotes a good night’s sleep.

  1. Eggs. Eggs have been hounded over the years for their fat and cholesterol content. However, with today’s research on eggs, we are learning that 1) the cholesterol found in eggs is not what is causing high cholesterol in individuals and 2) the benefits of the yolks include a Vitamin B12 source, eye-healthy lutein , zeaxanthin antioxidants, and choline, which is essential for cardiovascular and brain function.
  2. fresh-spinachSpinach. This green giant gets sautéed in with my eggs each morning and makes several appearances in other meals throughout the week.
  3. Peanut or almond butter. If I could eat almond butter every day, I would; but because the cost of it is often more than peanut butter, I tend to go back and forth between these heart-healthy fat and protein snack additions.
  4. Cauliflower. My kitchen often looks like a cauliflower war zone. For those of you that regularly cut up cauliflower, you know what I’m talking about! My preferred way of cooking it is steaming in a sauce pan and then mashing it in my food processor. Add a pinch of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and garnish with chives and you have a great vegetable side dish (not to mention for the cost of $3 or less!)
  5. Spaghetti Squash. We have been having a lot of fun with spaghetti squash this winter. It is a great substitute for pasta in recipes. To me, it is not very tasty when served plain, but if you add mixed vegetables, seasonings, sauces or a homemade mayo to the mix, you’re set-to-go for a delicious meal.
  6. Chicken. This is the most popular protein consumed in our household. For that reason, I am constantly finding new ways to season and prepare it. We also consume beef, pork and fish but chicken definitely takes the podium for most consumed.
  7. Apples. This fruit is a good source of antioxidants and soluble fiber. I usually have at least one and sometimes two apples a day with my peanut or almond butter for heart-healthy, filling snacks.
  8. Whey protein powder. Since both my husband and I do Crossfit, we need a quick source of protein for our post-workout snacks. One scoop of protein powder poured in 8 oz. of almond milk allows my body to quickly refuel after a workout, promote lean tissue growth and speed up recovery time.
  9. Ground flaxseed. This antioxidant powerhouse can be easily mixed into recipes or sauces or can even be sprinkled on top of foods to add fiber, omega-3 and healthy lignans to any dish.
  10. Sweet potato. These Vitamin A giants interestingly are most often consumed with my breakfast meal. I’ll sauté a medium-large sweet potato in 1 Tbsp of coconut oil on Sunday nights and then portion out servings to grab and go for the week. NCI5_POTATO