Strong Immune System Against COVID-19

In the current state of the world, health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.  Our health is directly dependent on the essential role of our immune system. It relies on complex interworkings of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues to recognize and neutralize harmful viruses, bacteria, cell changes, and other organisms that cause disease.

Our immune system is such an elaborate system of many interconnected parts that requires balance and harmony. Our desire is to live a healthy lifestyle that builds a strong immune system in order to fight off the coronavirus or other harmful substances should we come in contact with them.

Our immune system also operates better when bolstered by healthy lifestyle choices.

Healthy ways to reinforce a strong immune system to prevent or fight COVID-19 include:

A Healthy Diet

Our diet is key to a strong immune system. Be certain to eat at least 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.

Micronutrients

Numerous nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are required to support the normal functioning of your immune system Some micronutrients that play a role in maintaining your immune system include:

  • Vitamin B6 –found in chickpeas, chicken or turkey, salmon, tuna, bananas, green vegetables, potatoes (with skin)
  • Vitamin C – found in oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, kiwi pineapple, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, red peppers, Brussel sprouts
  • Vitamin E – found in almonds, sunflower and safflower oil, sunflower seeds, peanuts peanut butter, spinach, asparagus, red bell pepper, avocado, trout, mango
  • Zinc – found in foods including oysters, crab, lobster, beef, pork chop, chicken, baked beans, beans, nuts, yogurt, Swiss cheese. Some evidence indicates zinc may have a beneficial role in the immune response
  • Vitamin D – found in fortified foods such as dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals. A maintenance dose of vitamin D is vital during the winter months as well as for those with low vitamin D levels.

Exercise

One way exercise may improve the immune system is by boosting your overall circulation making it easier for immune cells to travel more easily throughout your body. Studies have shown 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily helps stimulate your immune system.

Water

Water is a necessary component of your lymph system which carries infection-fighting immune cells around your body.

Sleep

Important infection-fighting molecules are created while you sleep. Inadequate sleep leaves you more prone to getting sick.

Minimize Stress

Chronic long term stress over an extended period is certainly bad for our health. The uncertainty we are now experiencing with COVID-19 can trigger a stress response. The secretion of cortisol suppresses your immune system, thus increasing your chance of infection or illness. Given that stress has a direct negative impact on your health it is important to know how to identify your stress and have treatment options that work for you.

In addition, continue to minimize trips outside your home, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently. If you do come in contact with the virus, you’ve already taken proactive steps to have a strong and healthy immune system that can strengthen your defense against this harmful disease.

CB

Flavor Without The Sodium

February is American Heart Month!

In celebration, I would like to provide you with some great seasoning tips that help reduce or even eliminate sodium from the diet. Leave the “it won’t taste like food” comments at the door. Herbs are a great way to season dishes with an explosion of flavor.

Protip: Use herbs to liven up the presentation of any dish.

Let me introduce some common herbs found at the grocery store (and are also very easy to grow from your own backyard): 

Parsley

  • Flavor: fresh, grassy 
  • How to use: wash, chop the leaves and stem (stem can be used)
  • What to season: sauces, salads, garnishes, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lamb, beef, chicken, fish, tofu

Cilantro 

  • Flavor: bright and citrusy
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: salsas, guacamole, chutneys, soups, curries, salads, avocado, tomatoes, bell pepper, chicken, fish, shellfish, lamb, lentils, tofu

Oregano

  • Flavor: pungent, peppery
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: tomato sauces, pizzas, salad dressings, artichokes, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, chicken, beef, lamb, fish

Rosemary

  • Flavor: woody, pungent
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: focaccia bread, tomato sauces, pizza, soups, stews, roasted veggies, mushrooms, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, chicken, lamb, pork, fish

Thyme

  • Flavor: minty
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: rice, dips, stews, roasted veggies, tomato sauces, carrots, peas, potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes, chicken, pork, lamb, duck, fish

Mint

  • Flavor: sweet, cool
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: fruit salads, curries, cream sauces, soups, marinades, carrots, eggplant, watermelon, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, beans, lentils, lamb

Basil

  • Flavor: sweet and peppery flavor
  • How to use: wash, remove the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. To prevent burning, add to your dishes near the end of cooking.
  • What to season: pestos, tomato sauces, soups, stews, stir-fries or curries. Can also be used to add flavor to bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, chicken, beef, fish or tofu

LN

Cranberry Jalapeno Relish

Cranberries are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese.

I have been making this recipe for the last couple of years, and it has become a crowd favorite. It has a wonderful balance of tart and spice to compliment your Thanksgiving smorgasbord.

Ingredients

    • 1 12-ounce bag cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
    • 1 teaspoon lime zest
    • 2 teaspoons lime juice
    • 1-2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and coarsely chopped
    • 1/4 cup of sugar

Directions

  1. Rinse and dry cranberries.
  2. Combine cranberries and jalapeno in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
  3. Add combination and sugar to a small saucepan and heat on low heat for about 10 minutes until liquid releases from cranberries. Stir frequently until sugar dissolves.
  4. Remove from heat and add lime juice.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and top with lime zest. 
  6. Serve cold or on top of low-fat cream cheese as a dip.

This cranberry relish pairs beautifully with turkey, as a spread for sandwiches or even as a taco topping.

KD

5 Tips for a Healthful and Happy Halloween

There are so many fun-filled activities that go along with Halloween. This year we want to help parents incorporate enjoyable experiences for the kids and the entire family. Here are 5 Tips for a Healthful and Happy Halloween.

1. Emphasize the non-food related aspects of the holiday

Emphasize activities over the consumption of sugar-filled treats that are commonly consumed around Halloween.

Examples of non-food related activities that can be done for Halloween include:

  • Visiting a local pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins
  • Feeding animals then taking a hayride
  • Hosting a costume contest
  • Decorating for the holiday
  • Reading It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • Watching a spooky movie, such as Spookley the Square Pumpkin

2. Balance

Serve a balanced meal or snack before trick or treating, while sorting through candy and every time you break out leftover candy. This will encourage having these sugar-filled treats in moderation. 

Some easy Halloween Snacks to try include:

3. Make it a moving holiday

Help balance out the eating by getting active. Increase activity by having a costume parade, walking door to door to collect candy, have a monster dance party and/or play games like costume tag or bobbing for apples. 

4. Avoid Allergies

There are several candies that have nuts or other common allergens in the ingredients. Handout out or having other treats available can be a great option for kids with allergies. Stickers, Play-Doh, applesauce, raisins, temporary tattoos, and spider rings are great alternatives to hand out instead of candy.

5. Pick Favorites

After trick or treating, have your child make a pile of his or her favorite candies to enjoy. Get your child involved and pack up the rest to be donated to a local shelter or send in a care package to those serving overseas. 

LN

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili

I recently attended an Instant Pot Cooking Workshop. My eyes were quickly opened to a world of meals without losing flavor or texture. I purchased a pressure cooker soon after. While I love to cook, when the days grow shorter I find solace in the fact of simply preparing a few ingredients and having a meal ready for my husband and me within 30 minutes or less.

When the cold front moved through this past week, I made an easy vegetarian chili in our pressure cooker. It was savory and satisfying.  I adapted this recipe from Dinner at the Zoo.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons of your choice of cooking oil
2 pounds Beyond beef, or protein alternative
1 small onion finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
28 ounce can diced tomatoes do not drain
3- 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
3/4 cup vegetable broth or miso broth 
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
15-ounce can kidney beans drained and rinsed
15-ounce can pinto beans drained and rinsedInstructions
Turn your pressure cooker to “saute.” Add the oil to the pot. Add the protein and cook until browned, breaking up the with a spatula as you stir. Add the onion and cook for 3 more minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, spices, seasonings, and beans to the pot. Turn the pressure cooker to the “soup/stew” setting and place the lid on the pot. Cook for 20 minutes. Release the pressure either manually or allow it to release naturally.
Serve with cornbread, chives, cheese, or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. I even snuck in 1/2 cup of pureed pumpkin 🙂
Enjoy!
KD

Easy Cinnamon Apple Crisps

Who doesn’t think of apples when they think about Fall? Did you know the only apple indigenous to the US is the crab apple? Sweet, tart, crisp, and juicy, what more is there to love about this fruit?

October is National Apple Month. Enjoying in-season produce can be beneficial to a budget and to taste. Apples are filled with antioxidants and soluble fiber. There are several different varieties of apples. Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp- to name a few. Each variety offers it’s own unique flavor, sweetness, crisp and moisture content. 

Here’s a simple recipe for those spare apples you have on the counter.

All you need for this recipe are 3 pounds of apples (about 6 medium-sized apples) and cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 200 ℉. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Wash and dry the apples. Leaving the skins on, use a mandoline, slice apples as thin as possible. Remove seeds. Place apples on the baking sheet in a single layer and not touching each other. Sprinkle cinnamon evenly over apple slices. Bake for approximately 1 hour and then turn each slice over, and continue to bake for at least another hour so.
*If you like crispier apples, bake for 15-20 additional minutes.

Tips:

  • Cinnamon apple crisps can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
  • Enjoy in your Greek yogurt, oatmeal,  or as a topping for salads.
Enjoy.
LN/KD

Meal Planning Saves Time and Stress

Meal planning and food prep are hands down some of the simplest ways to feed your family healthy, nourishing meals during the week. With busy schedules, it can be tough to make home-cooked meals each day of the week. 

Earlier this summer, we talked about ways to navigate the supermarket with ease. We’ve found that even small steps such as cutting vegetables or fruits ahead of time can save a tremendous amount of time during the week.

After you consider your budget, flavors, and the time you have to devote to cooking, here are some ideas on conquering meals throughout the week.

We will give some tips on meal planning breakfast, lunch and dinners. 

Breakfast

Mornings can be crazy and you need something nourishing and fast. 

If you like breakfast items like steel-cut oats or pancakes, preparing these beforehand can save a lot of time in the morning scramble. Oats and pancakes can be saved in a medium-sized container or portioned out and warmed up in the morning before heading out the door. 

Other fantastic breakfast ideas include:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Breakfast bakes 
  • Mini frittatas
  • Toast with nut butter or smoked salmon and/or avocado
  • Fruit
  • Granola bars

Lunch

Keep lunches simple with 1 or 2 proteins such as chicken, tofu, beans, fish, lean beef, a grain such as quinoa, brown rice, pasta, corn, whole grain bread, and some fruit or veggies. 

We like to grill some chicken thighs, make a pot of beans, and roast different veggies such as turnips, carrots, and parsnips to throw into yummy lunch bowls. To make things even easier during the week– allow some extra time to put together 5 containers with your lunch combinations. All that is needed in the morning is to grab your lunch and go! 

*You can never go wrong with a sandwich: whole grain bread of choice, some cheese, turkey, roast beef, tofu, salmon, and/or veggies. Easy!

Dinner

If you can come up with 3 dinner ideas for the week, you are virtually set for 6 days of eating. This ensures variety but also the ability to just heat up food some nights – no cooking involved. Realize that meals can be simple – side of pasta, grilled zucchini, grilled chicken – or complex – turkey chili, lasagna, etc. You can even plan for a night of take-out or restaurant eating. 

As with any routine change, it takes practice and time to create a lifestyle habit. Start off small with a few prepped ingredients and build your way up to a week’s worth. You too can conquer meal planning and feed your family nourishing meals during the week. 

Pick a day to make all or some of your meals for the week. Carving out time early in the week (we like Sunday) and begin your food prep. You can make oatmeal and put individual portions in containers, roast off vegetables, cut up fruit for easy side dishes or snacking, put together veggie bags (cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, peppers), make 1 or 2 of your dinners for the first half of the week, grill off proteins for lunches. 

Though preparation takes time, it makes the rest of your week so much easier as the work is already done and you can just enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

As the week goes by, you’ll have time to squeeze in extra food prep as needed, for the remainder of the week.

MU

Slice of Life- Folate and Pregnancy

citrus-slices-on-tray

We often associate citrus fruits with vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that aids in the growth and repair of body tissue. Vitamin C helps heal wounds and repair and maintain healthy bones, teeth, skin, and cartilage.

Let’s talk about folate!

Folate is also known as folic acid and is vital during pregnancy. Folate helps to reduce the risk of spine and brain deformities (known as neural tube defects).

Citrus fruits also provide a rich source of folate. Pregnant women need 600 mcg of folate each day, and breastfeeding women need 500 mcg per day. An average orange contains about 30 mcg of folate and an 8-ounce serving of 100% orange juice provides 15% of the recommended Daily Value for folate, due to fortification.

Some other foods rich in folate include beans, avocados, and spinach and fortified foods such as grains.

If you are considering getting pregnant, our dietitians at Banister can talk to you about a folate-rich diet during preconception for the optimal spine and brain development.

KD

Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 1998:150- 188.

KIND BARS- ARE THEY REALLY “KIND” TO YOUR HEALTH?

KIND bars bill themselves as being “healthy”, but the FDA recently issued a warning letter to the brand demanding them to stop using the label for several of its snack bars.

 

The flavors they have asked to remove this label off of is, KIND Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, KIND Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, KIND Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and KIND Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants.

 

The reasons why the FDA says these bars should be taken off the “healthy” list is because they have too much saturated fat for the “healthy” label. FDA regulations state that “healthy” products need to have less that 1 g of saturated fat per serving. The bars mentioned have 2.5-5 g of saturated fat per serving.

 

Next time you pick up a KIND bar, read the label, and decide on if it’s the healthy choice for you. sg

 

Reference: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm440942.htm

Inflammation and Food

Inflammation is a sign of injury or illness. Increase inflammation in your body can be a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Your diet and lifestyle can increase or decrease the amount of inflammation in your body.
 
To decrease the amount of inflammation in your body: 
  • Avoid overeating: More food than you need causes your body to make more fat cells. Studies have shown that eating 20-30% less food can decrease inflammation in your body.
  • Lose weight: A weight loss of 10% or more makes a significant reduction in the amount of circulating inflammatory markers.
  • Moderate carbohydrate intake: Foods that are low in fiber and high in sugar are inflammatory. Limit your intake of sweetened drinks, snack foods, processed foods and desserts.
  • Avoid trans fats: These fatty acids are mostly found in store-bought baked goods, snack foods, frostings, shortening and fried foods.
  • Limited saturated fats: We need some saturated fats but too much can increase the risk of chronic disease. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal fat, dairy products, butter, lard and eggs.
  • Increase your fruits and vegetables: Try to eat 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Look for ones that are deep green, orange, yellow, and purple.
  • Use olive oil when you can: Oil is very dense in calories but the fats in olive oil are anti-inflammatory.
  • Increase your intake or walnuts and salmon: All nuts and fish are healthy but walnuts and fatty fish have the most heart-healthy fatty acids.
  • Eat whole grains: Increase your intake of oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice. These are good replacements for bread and most cold-cereals.
  • Eat more lentils and beans: These super foods are a good source of fiber, protein, carbohydrate, and many vitamins and minerals. Consider few vegetarian meals a week.
Inflammation in your body is a great example of “we are what we eat”. Small changes you enjoy are your best bet for long-term success. Enjoy! mk

Adapted from Today’s Dietitian Vol. 16 No. 2 p 44-51