Immune-Boosting Holiday Foods

Festive holiday gatherings often include our favorite things and favorite people!  

They also include stress, fatty foods, alcohol, and sleep deprivation… all of which can weaken our immune system and make us vulnerable to sickness. 

Winter is already hard enough on our bodies. With less sun, our vitamin levels can be thrown off. Cold temperatures can limit our ability to fight off infection, while also creating conditions that help unfriendly viruses thrive. 

Luckily for us, there are plenty of ways we can give our immune system the boost it needs while we indulge in our favorite holiday meals! 

Spice up Your Immune System with Turmeric 

Turmeric, in the form of an herbal tea or powder, can be a powerful force in boosting your immune system. Healthline explains that curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  

Sneak this holiday hero into your meal by putting some turmeric in your tea after dinner.  

Turmeric is also a delicious spice that can be incorporated into dishes such as salads, soups or as a seasoning for proteins and grains.   

Garlic (doesn’t just keep vampires at bay!) 

While it gets a bad rep for its smell, garlic can be an easy way to give your body some extra nutrients.

Garlic is low in calories and incredibly high in nutrients such as Manganese, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C.  

If you are looking for an easy nutrient rush, you can also eat a piece of raw garlic to quickly gain these benefits. 

Some of our favorite dishes to incorporate with garlic are mashed potatoes, green beans, or even delicious buttery garlic bread.  

Deck the Halls with Leafy Green Veggies

To balance out all the tempting carbs and proteins at the holiday table, it is also important to show leafy green dishes some love.  

Green foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that can help your body stay strong.  

Dark and leafy greens contain key nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K and antioxidants such as lutein.  

A general role of thumb is the darker green the veggie, the more nutritious it is. Our leafy friends also supply folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and dietary fiber.  

With all these benefits, it’s hard to resist! For this year’s holiday potluck, bring the delicious gift of nutrition to your friends and family by making a leafy salad or dark, roasted vegetable dish.  

You can’t beat Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene is another diet staple that helps maintain healthy organs, while also providing a yummy burst of flavor to any dish. Beta Carotene is the compound that gives vivid yellow, orange and red colors to vegetables and fruits.

The body converts Beta Carotene into Vitamin A, also known as retinol. Vitamin A is essential in protecting vision, the heart, lungs and kidneys. The vitamin is also a powerful force in maintaining our immune system.  

You can easily add Beta Carotene to your holiday lineup by incorporating colorful vegetables into your dishes.  

Beta Carotene-rich foods include carrots, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and winter squash—just to name a few.  

These ingredients can make decadent salads when combined and pack a punch when eaten alone. One of the favorites of our Functional Nutrition team is roasted, mashed or baked sweet potatoes. Yum! 

Super-star Selenium

To keep holiday indulgence under control, giving your body some extra Selenium can be an easy hack! Selenium is a mineral found in soil that naturally appears in water and some foods.

Having enough selenium in your bloodstream can help bolster your metabolism and immune system as you consume larger amounts of festive foods. 

Selenium can be found in some of our favorite proteins such as beef, poultry, and many freshwater fish like tuna.  

Grains are also a key source of this nutrient, so bringing a flavorful rice or lentil dish to your holiday feast is a win-win.  

Selenium and its digestive benefits can also be gained by eating easy snacks like walnuts, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds and cashews.  

Small but Mighty Immune-Boosting Snacks

There are plenty small, but mighty, snack foods that can give your immune system the extra punch it needs in-between celebrations. These snacks can be eaten in the hours leading up to a meal, or can be brought along as a healthy alternative sidekick.

 

If you’re looking for a savory snack, nuts are a great option to fortify your body. Salsa is a flavorful immune-friendly option, as tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant shown to enhance immune function by protecting virus-fighting cells. 

 

For sweet-tooth-satisfying choices, lean towards fruits such as bananas, kiwis, blueberries, and red grapes to increase immune response.

A study from Oregan State University found that pigments in colorful fruits increased the expression of the CAMP gene, which is a key player in regulating the immune system.  

To really hit home healthy choices, these fruits can be paired with Greek yogurt, whose good bacteria strengthens our gut’s natural barrier against infection and bugs.  

Interested in Year-Round Body-Optimizing Nutrition?

If you’re interested in bolstering your immune system through every season, our team of Functional Medicine providers and Clinical Nutrition experts can develop a personalized nutritional journey that helps you make the most of food all year.  

We offer free consultations, virtual care, and are in-network with some insurance providers. Connect with our team by scheduling an appointment below! 

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