The weather outside is very cold and I begin to feel that scratchy throat. I am seeing my daughter’s nose running and hear her complaining about her ear hurting. Amidst the holiday celebrations and more contact with friends and family, contagious illnesses are making their rounds. Besides the number one action of washing our hands frequently, how can we best prepare our bodies to fight off these pesky germs? The American Institute for Cancer Research has a helpful article, “Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables.” What a timely topic! So what are the recommended tips we should put into practice?
Make sure you are eating the rainbow.
- Deep orange vegetables like pumpkins, winter squash, and sweet potatoes will provide you with Vitamin A and fiber. See a great reduced fat recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole below.
- Red Peppers will provide Vitamin E and Vitamin C while tomatoes will provide Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A).
- Deep red, purple and blue berries and all the varieties of apples are also rich in antioxidants.
- Green broccoli, mustard and turnip greens (and others), spinach and brussel sprouts all provide a variety of wonderful vitamins and minerals that keep our body healthier and able to battle infections.
Eat a variety of foods and do not overcook them.
- Red meats and poultry, whole and fortified grains and breads provide the minerals zinc and selenium that help to build our immunity.
- Grapes, beans, onions, etc. are part of the many fresh fruits and vegetables and are nature’s vitamin pills. In addition to their great taste they help to maintain our healthy lifestyles.
- Overcooking and boiling our foods causes vitamins to escape and be poured down the drain.
Flavor foods naturally.
- Ginger is known to fight inflammation and colds. Other herbs and spices also help to keep our bodies running strong.
These food tips along with regular physical activity and drinking lots of water to keep us hydrated will not prevent every sneeze or sniffle this frosty season, but it should help us to prevent some illnesses and shorten the symptoms of the ones that get us down.
Try this tasty slimmed down version of sweet potato casserole for some great Vitamin A:
Sweet Potato Casserole
Yield: 10 servings
1 pound sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)
3 egg whites
1⁄2 cup sugar
12 ounces evaporated milk, nonfat
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon ginger
1. Rinse sweet potatoes in cold running water and pierce with a fork.
2. Microwave sweet potatoes on full power until tender, about 15 minutes. Turn them half way during baking.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove skin from sweet potatoes and mash with hand beaters or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.
4. Pour mixture in an 8 inch square baking pan. Bake until casserole is firm in the center, about 40 minutes.
5. Remove pan from oven. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then cut into 10 squares.
6. Serve hot. Refrigerate leftovers.
Notes: You may want to experiment with using canned sweet potatoes.
Sources: Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables, (2013). American Institute of Cancer Research. Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=17467&news_iv_ctrl=2303
Super Foods for Optimal Health, (2013). WebMD. Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health
Sweet Potato Casserole, (2013). United States Department of Agriculture: SNAP-Ed connection. Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/recipes/sweet-potato-casserole
Author: Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewer: Liz Smith, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, NorthEast Region, email@example.com
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