By Ali Lopez
As I write this, there is still snow on the ground. April is certainly hanging on to winter, but the promise of warmer sunny days is just around the corner. This winter has been a tough one for some folks in the wellness department — lots of nasty bugs knocking folks out.
We all know the best ways to prevent getting sick: get enough sleep and regular exercise, wash our hands, and eat healthy. Some people like to do a spring detox. Cleaning up your diet is a great idea, and spring is a great time to do it, but detox sounds too harsh to me. Maybe just a spring cleaning. I have put together a list of some of my favorite foods to add to your spring wellness kitchen that will help make your immune system stronger!
And of course, I have included a recipe that will help you get a bunch of the foods all in one bowl.
Dark Leafy Greens. Well, you knew I would say this one, right? This is my favorite wellness weapon any time of year, but especially in the springtime. Kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, beet greens, arugula. Dark leafy greens are a great detoxifier, bursting with vitamins B, C, iron, beta carotene and zinc. Zinc is an important mineral for keeping the immune system strong. For my favorite Kale Salad, which is also a great immunity boosting recipe, check out this previous post here on MRG »
Citrus. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes are packed with vitamin C, which is a big boost for the immune system. They are believed to increase the production of white blood cells which help the body fight off infection. Since your body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C, load up on citrus to help keep your immune system up and running.
Ginger is a great is antioxidant that has been shown to naturally boost the immune system. It contains tons of vitamins like magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium. Ginger also can help kill cold viruses and has been said to combat chills, nausea and fever. It is also a great detox — ginger root helps relax the intestinal tract and eliminate intestinal gas.
Nuts and Seeds are another great way to help keep your immune system happy. A handful of nuts or seeds can pack a big nutritional punch. Nuts contain zinc, healthy fats, iron, magnesium and selenium – all of which can help boost your immune system.
Garlic and Onions are rich in antioxidants, which help boost immunity. They also have powerful antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties. For colds and flus, garlic can provide decongestant and expectorant effects, especially when eaten raw. One home remedy (not scientifically proven) I have used for years when I feel something coming on is slicing a raw garlic clove thinly and then dipping the slices in honey. The honey makes the medicine go down smoother and also provides added antioxidants as well as being a good antibacterial.
Yogurt has tons of health benefits. Besides calcium and vitamin D for immune boosting, it is a great source of probiotics. Probiotics help replenish good strains of bacteria that promote healthy digestive. A healthy gut is a happy gut, and a happy immune system.
Green Tea. We tend to think of drinking hot tea when we are sick but actually green tea is great to drink all year round for a lot of reasons besides just increasing your immunity. Green tea is loaded with polyphenols and flavonoids, both of which are very powerful antioxidants, which can help boost metabolism and protect against other diseases.
Orange vegetables. Carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes are some of the most common as well as affordable foods at the market. These veggies are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A once it is consumed. Vitamin A helps boost the immune system and also helps keep the mucus membrane in our nose and throat healthy, as well as provides antioxidant power. For some great sweet potato recipes, check out my MRG post here »
Getting all of my nutrition in one bowl is one of my favorite ways to eat. And this soup fits the bill perfectly. With all the colors, the variety and the different antioxidants, the nutrients and minerals – it’s like giving your body a big hug.
Magical Spring Green Immunity Boosting Soup
Extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4-6 cups water or vegetable stock, or more as needed
1 big bunch kale or collard greens
1 big bunch Swiss chard or spinach
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice
Fresh parsley (detoxifying and also a great source of calcium, iron, Vitamin C and A!)
Whole milk yogurt, (thinned with water so you can drizzle it on top)
Toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are soft, then add garlic and ginger. Cook a few more minutes until they soften but don’t brown.
- Add the sweet potatoes with 3 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, about 10-15 minutes until softened.
- Wash the greens, trim away the tough stems, and chop. Add to pot along with more 1-2 cups of water. Cover and simmer until greens are wilted and soft.
- Puree the mixture in a blender, in batches and return the pureed soup to the pot. Add more water/stock if you like it thinner. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
- To serve, drizzle yogurt on top. Garnish with lots of chopped fresh parsley and toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
Have a cup of green tea for dessert … maybe with a piece of dark chocolate!
Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at heather [at] michiganrunnergirl [dot] com
Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here » She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »
Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »
You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »