If you’re anything like us, your tv is on all morning as you’re trying to stay up-to-date on the latest statistics, recommendations, orders, and trends happening during this crazy time. In an effort to balance the facts from the feel-good stories, news outlets are featuring a variety of segments from how to set up a helpful at-home work station and workouts you can do while at home to community efforts and ways you can help. A popular feature we have seen recently is foods and recipes that boost your immunity, which in turn helps you stay healthy. With that in mind, we did a little reading up of our own and are sharing some popular immunity-boosting ingredients and even some honey-inspired recipes featuring them.
Antioxidants, minerals, vitamins – these are common health words that we hear nearly on a daily basis, but what exactly do all of these things do? We’re breaking down the basic groups, some of the important elements and what they do in our bodies to boost immunity.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines antioxidants as “substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage.” In preparation for our recent matcha blog post, we learned that basically antioxidants help to stabilize harmful free radicles and may help to prevent cell damage and even lower risk of chronic disease. Below are some of the antioxidants you will find in common foods:
- Beta-carotene: Popularly linked to carrots, this antioxidant, which keeps your eyes and skin healthy, is also found in red peppers and sweet potatoes.
- Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG): This powerful antioxidant is linked to enhanced immune function and is a found in green tea.
- Glutathione: This antioxidant helps fight off infection by strengthening the immune system and is easily found in everyone’s favorite summertime treat – juicy watermelon.
Anyone grow up taking a daily vitamin (hopefully in the shape of our favorite stone-aged family, the Flintstones)? MedLinePlus.gov defines vitamins as “substances that your body needs to grow and develop normally.” While there are a lot of vitamin supplements on the market, many essential vitamins can be found in everyday foods:
- Vitamin C: Probably the most often thought of and sought after vitamin when sick, vitamin C is also categorized as an antioxidant and is related to skin, bone and connective tissue health. This vitamin also helps the body absorb iron and is readily found in citrus fruit, papaya, and greens like spinach and broccoli.
- B-Vitamins: While B-12 and B-6 may sound familiar, there are actually eight B-vitamins, and they work to help your body make energy from food and help create new red blood cells. Many of these vitamins are found in protein like poultry, beans, and even button mushrooms.
- Vitamin E: Also classified as an antioxidant, vitamin E plays a role in both your metabolic and immune systems, and is found in vegetable oils, nuts like almonds, and seeds like sunflower seeds.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, leading to strong bones, but it also plays a role in your immune, nerve, and muscle systems too. While your body does make vitamin D when your body is exposed to sunlight, it can also be found in egg yolks, saltwater fish and dairy products like milk and yogurt (especially the kind with “live and active cultures,” which help to stimulate the immune system).
While this sounds like something from the earth, which they are, minerals are actually essential to our bodies. Our friends at the U.S. National Library of Medicine define minerals as “elements on earth and in foods that our bodies need to develop and function normally.” Some of these minerals are actually known by some pretty common names:
- Potassium: Potassium is essential for the cells, muscles, and nerves in the body and assists with digestion while helping to regulate “blood pressure, heart rhythm and water content in the cells.” This mineral is commonly associated with bananas and potatoes but is also found in such foods as lima beans and kiwi fruit.
- Zinc: This mineral is like a wonderchild of minerals and does a multitude of tasks, from making proteins and DNA to helping us to taste and smell, but in the immunity-boosting arena, zinc is a bit of a hero, helping the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. Zinc is commonly found in red meat, beans and shellfish like crab and oysters.
In addition to the above categories of elements, we also wanted to highlight some trending ingredients:
- Garlic: Good for more than just keeping away vampires (or your neighbors if you eat too much…), garlic’s sulfur-containing compounds have immunity-boosting benefits of their own. This popular ingredient may also assist in lower blood pressure and could help to slow the hardening of arteries.
- Ginger: Largely known for its ability to ease nausea, ginger may also help to decrease inflammation, may reduce sore throat and may even possess properties that reduce cholesterol.
- Turmeric: More than flavorful, this spice packs kicks in the immunity department too! Similar to ginger, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and can even help reduce muscle damage resulting from exercise, making it perfect for your recovery.
So what does honey have in common with the above ingredients? Well, research has shown that honey also contains a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants! Flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, are found in honey, although the amount and type of these compounds depend largely on the floral source (check out more about honey’s nutritional profile). On top of that, honey is also a natural cough soother and energy booster, which is why we are pairing it up with other immunity-boosting ingredients and sharing some of our favorite recipes below.
We hope that you enjoy these recipes and that everyone is staying well out there!