What role does food play in maintaining a strong immune system?
Lee Cotton: Nutrition is protective, reparative, and restorative for the body. Consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods and adequate energy is beneficial for immune health. Inadequate intake can stress the body and make it more susceptible to illness.
What are some of the “hero” nutrients?
Macronutrients are fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Fats aid the body in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as D, E, A, and K. Carbs are the main source of energy in the body. Protein is essential for repair and recovery, as well as for growth and development. Micronutrients are all of the vitamins and minerals, which play a role in many aspects of health.
Which nutrients do you recommend?
Some foods that research indicates are beneficial to immune health include foods that contain vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin C. Some excellent sources of vitamin D include wild-caught fish, mushrooms, and eggs. Vitamin C foods include citrus, red peppers, and berries. Zinc-rich foods include pumpkin seeds, legumes, and even dark chocolate.
What about probiotics?
Probiotic and prebiotic foods not only enhance gut health, but they also strengthen the immune system. Probiotic foods include yogurts, kimchi, and other fermented foods; prebiotic foods include asparagus, garlic, and beans.
Can you suggest a few habits people should incorporate into their lifestyle?
Make sure a portion of each plate or bowl includes a colorful ingredient—many of the colorful fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that can protect against harmful free radicals. Explore farmer’s markets and try a new ingredient each week. Most of all, focus on honoring your body and harvesting a positive relationship with nutrition.
Rainbow Salmon Bowl
1 sweet potato, diced into 1-inch cubes
1 diced red bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup diced red onion
3 leeks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
cup mint leaves
2 cups arugula
cup crumbled feta cheese
1 lemon (juiced)
4 10 oz. oven-baked salmon filets (optional)
If you are using salmon, cook your filets ahead of time in the oven seasoned with oil, pepper, and lemon juice. Preheat oven to 415 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine sweet potato, red bell pepper, mushrooms, red onion, leeks, and garlic cloves in a large mixing bowl. Toss well with red pepper flakes and olive oil. Place veggies on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook for about 30 minutes or until golden.
In the meantime, add quinoa and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover pot and reduce heat; let simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. When your veggies are finished roasting, put them in a large mixing bowl. Add quinoa, mint, arugula, and feta. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve alone or with oven-baked salmon filets on the side.
1 cup strawberries
1 tbsp. flax seed
2 cups spinach
1 cup ice
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or yogurt of choice)
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and enjoy!