Keeping my family healthy and feeding them foods to keep their immune systems strong is a top priority. But as you know, life is busy. Sometimes it’s a hassle to try new recipes or find new foods your kids like. Therefore, I was very excited when I read Jo Robinson’s fascinating book, Eating on the Wild Side. It provided a ton of practical ways to increase your immunity simply by knowing which foods to choose and how to prepare and/or store them.
The following is a list of tips I gleaned from her book. These foods are ones you probably already shop for or cook with regularly. Just a few tweaks can boost immunity many times over. If you want more details on the science behind the tips, check out Robinson’s book. Otherwise, just follow these simple suggestions and start increasing your family’s immunity immediately. Bon appetite!
10 Tips to Increase Immunity
After mincing garlic, keep it away from heat for 10 minutes.
This allows a powerful cancer-fighting compound called allicin to form. If you toss it in a hot pan too soon, enzymes are destroyed, the reaction doesn’t have time to occur, and you can destroy most of garlic’s health benefits. But after 10 minutes, the allicin is formed and will not be destroyed with heat.
Choose your onions wisely: small, strong and oblong.
Stronger flavored onions have way more antioxidants and cancer killing potential than sweet onions. Within the same variety, two small onions give you twice as many antioxidants as one large onion. Round or oblong red onions are much higher in antioxidants than the wide flat ones.
Buy lettuce that has the loosest arrangement of leaves and the darkest colors.
Red loose-leaf lettuce is the best. Eat it as soon as possible. It loses nutritional benefits the longer it is stored. Wash in cold water as soon as you get home. Dry and store in plastic bag with small holes poked in it (with a toothpick). Bags of mixed greens with red, dark green, or purple-tinged leaves are also high on the phytonutrient scale.
Steam fresh carrots whole, then cut them up.
Cooked fresh whole carrots have up to five times more beta-carotene than raw baby carrots. Whole cooked carrots have 25 percent more of a cancer-fighting compound called falcarinol than carrots cut before cooking. A bonus is that cooking carrots whole also retains their natural sweetness, making them more desirable.
Smaller and deep red tomatoes are the most nutritious.
Bigger is not always better. The smaller the tomato, the higher it’s lycopene content. Of course, growing your own tomatoes and eating them vine-ripened is the best. But, in the supermarket choose the dark red cherry or grape tomatoes for the most health benefits.
Canned and processed tomatoes have more nutrition than fresh supermarket tomatoes.
Now that’s a switch. Processed tomatoes are picked ripe, developing their full nutrient potential. This, plus the heat involved in canning, increases the availability of lycopene, a potent phytonutrient. Tomato paste has the highest concentration of lycopene of all tomato products. So add some tomato paste to soups, stews, and casseroles to boost your family’s immunity.
Eat more blueberries and blackberries, even blueberry crisp!
Blueberries and blackberries are true superfoods! Studies have shown they have the potential to fight cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, and even prevent memory loss. Blueberries are one of the few fruits that have more antioxidant levels cooked or canned than when fresh. So, bring on the blueberry crisp all year round!
When in season, fresh white-fleshed peaches and nectarines are much more nutritious than yellow varieties.
This is an exception to the rule to choose the brightest colored fruits and vegetables. White-fleshed peaches and nectarines are higher in phytonutrients. Eat the skins to get the most benefit, and choose organic to avoid high pesticide residues.
Choose Cara Cara or Blood oranges, and save some pith please.
While all oranges are excellent sources of phytonutrients, the darker, brighter flesh is the best. The top three oranges for antioxidant levels are in order, Blood oranges, Cara Caras, and Valencias. For the most nutrition, eat the white pith under the skin — as much as is still enjoyable. The pith, also called the albedo, is, surprisingly, the most nutritious part of the orange.
Bitter is better. Kale is king.
Usually wild is better, but Kale is one of the few vegetables that meets or exceeds the nutritional value of some wild greens. The bitterness comes from glucosinolates, which also make it the healthiest cruciferous vegetable in the supermarket. Add it to a smoothie with mixed frozen fruit, dried dates, a banana and half an avocado to reduce the bitterness. Dried kale chips also make a super immune boosting snack. Kale needs to be eaten in a day or two to retain its nutritional advantage.
Baked Kale Chips
Our whole family loves baked kale chips. Here’s a simple recipe.
Big bunch of kale
Olive oil spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry kale leaves by patting with a paper towel. Take leaves of ribs and tear into about 2 inch pieces. Spread a single layer of leaves on one or more baking sheets. Spray lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crisp but not burnt. You can turn once, but I usually forget and they turn out fine. Eat as many as you want, but save some to share!
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