Immune Support With Nutrition
Everyone needs good nutrition. Each system in our bodies requires many nutrients. Some nutrients our bodies require are energy, vitamins, minerals, and protein. You might ask, “What is the immune system and why should I think of it when I choose to eat?”
The immune system is a network of organs and cells throughout the body. The parts of the system work with each other to keep you healthy. They protect the body against germs and dust in the air. The immune system does its work through networks of chemical reactions. The system works best when all of the required nutrients are present. When the immune system can work at its best, you feel your best.
All the energy and nutrients the immune system needs are found in whole foods. Today in the U.S., processed foods are used to save time, increase shelf life, and decrease spoilage. Processing destroys vitamins and breaks down fiber. The nutrient value is not as great as that of a whole food. Making meals from scratch can help to improve our well-being and prevent illness.
Today there are many features of the way we live that can weaken our immune system. Smog and chemicals can damage parts of the network that are the immune system, causing the whole system to work more slowly or not as well. In the diet, too much sugar, alcohol, or fat, can do the same. It is a system that needs more care at certain times in life than at others. Stress, aging, or surgery can make the immune system less able to prevent infectious disease in infants, those 65 and older, and hospitalized or immunosuppressed patients.
One job of the immune system is to find and destroy cancer cells before a tumor causes damage or spreads. To help the immune system one can limit contact with cancer causing compounds. Burned food such as meat charred over a grill is a source of such compounds. Instead of throwing steaks on the grill the next time you want an easy meal to cook, try this baked fish. You prepare it in the oven. Thirty minutes later it’s ready. It’s quick and easy and also lower in fat than steak is. Too much fat in the diet is believed to increase the risk of some cancers.
TOMATO CROWN FISH
1 ½ cups water
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 lb cod fillets
slightly less than 1/8 teaspoon pepper
½ small green pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped onion
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
½ tsp. Basil
1 Tbs canola oil
1 large or 1 ½ medium tomato, sliced 1/8 to ¼ inch thick.
Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Add lemon juice to water and pour over fish. Let it stand 30 minutes. Drain the fillets and place in an oiled baking dish. Sprinkled with pepper and chopped onion and bell pepper. Place the tomato slices over the top. Blend the bread crumbs, basil, and oil. Spread this seasoned crumb mixture evenly over the tomatoes.
Bake 25 minutes, until the fish is firm and flakes easily with a fork.
Yields 4 servings. Serve with a large salad of tossed leafy greens, and brown rice, corn on the cob, or boiled potatoes. Leftover portions make a tasty cold lunch the next day.
Adapted from: Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book by Jane Brody.
Speaking of fat, margarine is not a good substitute for butter. It is oil, which has been partially saturated. It is exposed to hydrogen gas at high pressure and extreme heat. In the process, the structure of some of the fats is changed in a way the body can’t use. You may have heard of trans-fatty acids. These fats don’t fit into compounds vital to many functions. Some of these compounds serve as relay links between cells of the immune system. You can make a spread that is half butter and half oil. It has the soft texture of margarine, the flavor of butter, and only one-half the saturated fat of butter. If less processed oil (cold pressed) is used, it also provides some Vitamin E which is found in vegetable oils and not in animal fat.
To assure that there is a Vitamin E content, a Vitamin E capsule could be opened and added to the oil as you make this spread. The lecithin granules in the recipe are available in health food stores.
½ cup canola or safflower oil
½ cup (1/4 pound) softened butter
1 Tbs nonfat milk
1/8 tsp. soy lecithin granules
1 Tbs water
¼ tsp. salt (optional)
Blend together the equal parts oil and softened butter until smooth. This much alone can be the final product, stored in the refrigerator. The remaining ingredients are blended in to help the spread stay firm a little longer when left at room temperature, as during a meal. The salt is entirely optional and only for taste.
Adapted from The New Laurel’s Kitchen by Laurel Robertson.
Each day immune cells use the Vitamin A, B-complex, folate, C and E, carotenes and flavonoids, and the minerals zinc, copper, and selenium. Meat is the best source of zinc. The rest of these nutrients are in fruits and vegetables. It’s best to get nutrients by eating a variety of fresh, whole foods before taking supplements. Why? you might ask. Food has so many things we have only just discovered. We are learning more about all the different components of food each day. There are likely many things in food we don’t know about that may work together with the nutrients we have discovered.
Cabbage is high in Vitamin C and folate, and many people love coleslaw. The recipe below has much less fat than coleslaw often does. With apple, raisins, carrot, and almonds, it has sweetness, iron, Vitamins B6 and B1, copper, Vitamin A, beta carotene, Vitamin E, and zinc. Flavonoids are in the inside pulpy part of bell peppers.
2 cups green cabbage, shredded
2 cups red cabbage, shredded
½ cup carrot, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup red or green bell pepper, diced
½ cup apple or pear, chopped
½ cup cucumber, peeled and diced
sliced radishes (optional)
¼ cup finely chopped green onions
(optional: raisins, grapes, or slivered almonds)
3 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
½ Tbs soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp. Honey
dried parsley to taste
¼ tsp. caraway seeds
¼ tsp. celery seeds
1 Tbs canola oil
Combine the vegetables in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, mustard, soy sauce, and honey. Toss the parsley into the vegetables and pour the dressing over. Sprinkle caraway and celery seeds on top. Toss all together to mix well. Chill for 2 hours so all flavors are nicely blended. Serves 6.
Adapted from Doctor McDougall’s Health-Enhancing Recipe Book by Mary McDougall.
Are you looking for a savory change from rice? Something quick and easy? Below is a tasty way to cook turnips and rutabagas that may surprise you. Turnips and rutabagas are both high in Vitamin C and belong to the group of cruciferous vegetables, which has been linked with a lower risk of cancer. Compared with white rice, this dish provides more of Vitamins A, B6, folate, B1 and B2.
ROASTED TURNIPS AND RUTABAGAS
1 head garlic
2 lb turnips and rutabagas (total)
4 to 6 shallots, peeled
2 Tbs vegetable oil (suggested: olive or canola)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Break the garlic head into individual cloves. They can be roasted in the skins and easily slip out after. Peel and cut the turnips and rutabagas so the pieces are close to the same size, roughly 1 ¼ inches thick. Leave the shallots whole. Put all the vegetables except the garlic into a roasting pan. If there is no crowding a Pyrex 9”x13” dish works fine. Toss with the oil to coat all the pieces. Add 1 tsp. dried rosemary or thyme, crushed, or 2 tsp. fresh, and salt, and toss. Pepper is not added until after the roasting because its bitterness becomes stronger when cooked for this length of time. Roast 30 minutes, then turn the heat up to 425 degrees and add the garlic. Continue roasting 20 minutes more. Season with pepper and serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 4.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 1994.