Immune Boosters: 9 Wonder Foods
2. Red Meat Redemption
Long lambasted as a promoter of heart disease and cancer, beef is now making special appearances in the health community. “Lean beef in moderate quantities provides many nutrients the body needs,” notes Rachel Begun, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Beef is an excellent source of zinc, a mineral important for immune system functioning that is often lacking in untreated celiac disease.”
According to the USDA, animal products provide half of the zinc in American diets, and the percentage needed from meat (such as beef or lamb) may be even higher for those who can’t consume dairy, shellfish, oats or fortified wheat products. The trace mineral selenium is another antiviral essential that is abundant in top allergens such as seafood, but can be obtained through red meat.
How to Enjoy: If your budget permits, seek out grass-fed meat, which has higher levels of key antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene. To keep portions modest, slice beef thinly against the grain, season, and quickly cook in a drizzle of oil on high heat. Add 3 ounces per person to stir fries, pastas or salads.
3. Sunflower Powered
Almonds get most of the vitamin E attention, but low allergen sunflower seeds actually surpass nuts when it comes to this vital antioxidant. Vitamin E works together with other nutrients, such as vitamin C and selenium, to support the immune system response and stimulate production of white blood cells that attack bacteria, disease and infections. Increased vitamin E intake has even shown promise in reducing the incidence of viruses, such as colds.
But before you reach for those vitamin E supplements (which often contain soy), consider this: According to continuing studies in the U.K., low vitamin E intake during pregnancy has been linked to asthma in children, but it was the form of the vitamin found in foods that appeared to lessen the risk.
How to Enjoy: Look for raw sunflower seeds or roasted varieties that aren’t processed on shared equipment with top allergens. Sunflower seed butter is also available as a peanut butter alternative, and you can grind your own to make a creamy salad dressing.
Next: Squash, citrus and more