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Fight cold and flu with these 10 immune-boosting recipes from a Texas registered dietitian

With flu season in full swing — and other seasonal respiratory infections also spiking across the U.S. — experts say it’s important to keep your immune system strong and healthy during this time of year. 

One way to combat seasonal illness is to regularly consume key nutrients and proteins that help improve immune health, according to Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian and sports nutrition consultant in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“The overall importance of nutritious foods in boosting immunity cannot be overstated, as the intricate relationship between diet and the immune system profoundly influences the body’s ability to defend against infections and maintain optimal health,” Goodson, who is also the author of “The Sports Nutrition Playbook,” told Fox News Digital.

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“A well-balanced and diverse diet provides essential nutrients that play key roles in supporting various immune functions.”

Goodson recommended the following seven recipes that contain key ingredients to ward off winter illness.

“Beef is a top source of zinc, which plays a key role in immune function,” Goodson said. 

“Just 3 ounces of beef provides 53% of the recommended daily value of zinc.”

Beef is also a high-quality protein source that can help boost immunity, she said.

The broccoli in this recipe includes beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant known to help decrease inflammation and increase immune function. 

The bell peppers, rich in vitamin C, can help stimulate white blood cell activity to strengthen immune defense. 

Ingredients: Lean beef strips, broccoli, bell peppers, soy sauce, ginger, garlic

Instructions: Stir-fry beef and vegetables in soy sauce, ginger and garlic until cooked.

Mushrooms contain selenium, a nutrient essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, Goodson noted. 

It also has antioxidant properties.

Ingredients: Bell peppers, mushrooms, quinoa, black beans, onion, garlic, cumin, paprika, tomato sauce, cheese

Instructions: Cook quinoa. Sauté mushrooms, onion and garlic. Mix with cooked quinoa, black beans, cumin and paprika. 

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Stuff the peppers, top with tomato sauce and cheese. Bake until cheese is melted.

“Curcumin, found in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, supporting immune health,” said Goodson.

Ingredients: Milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, honey

Instructions: Heat milk, add turmeric, ginger and cinnamon. Whisk until well mixed. Sweeten with honey.

A salad containing citrus fruits is high in vitamin C, which supports the production of white blood cells, essential for fighting infections and viruses, according to Goodson.

Ingredients: Oranges, grapefruits, kiwi, pomegranate seeds, mint leaves

Instructions: Mix citrus fruits, top with pomegranate seeds, garnish with mint leaves.

The probiotics in yogurt promote a healthy gut microbiome, positively impacting immune function, the dietitian told Fox News Digital.

Ingredients: Greek yogurt, mixed berries, granola, honey

Instructions: Layer yogurt, berries and granola in a glass. Drizzle with honey.

The vitamin E in spinach acts as an antioxidant, protecting immune cells from damage.

Ingredients: Chicken breast, spinach, feta cheese, garlic, olive oil

Instructions: Mix spinach, feta and garlic. Stuff into a chicken breast and bake until cooked.

“The vitamin K in broccoli plays a role in regulating the immune response and inflammatory processes,” Goodson noted.

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Ingredients: Broccoli, cheddar cheese, onion, chicken broth

Instructions: Cook broccoli and onions in broth, blend and add cheese.

The riboflavin (vitamin B2) in almonds supports the production of antibodies and helps maintain a healthy immune system, according to Goodson.

Ingredients: Almonds, banana, yogurt, honey, milk

Instructions: Blend almonds, banana, yogurt, honey and milk until smooth.

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, a nutrient that is converted into vitamin A, which plays a crucial role in immune function.

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Ingredients: Sweet potatoes, olive oil, paprika, salt

Instructions: Cut sweet potatoes into fries and toss with olive oil, paprika and salt. Bake until crispy.

“The flavonoids in berries have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, contributing to immune system modulation,” said Goodson.

Ingredients: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mint, lime juice

Instructions: Mix berries, garnish with mint and drizzle with lime juice.

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When putting together immune-boosting recipes, Goodson emphasized the importance of dietary diversity.

“Beyond individual nutrients, the synergy of various compounds in whole foods contributes to a holistic approach to immune health,” she said.

“Incorporating a colorful array of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats into daily meals enhances the body’s resilience, helping to ward off illnesses and promote overall well-being.”

On a broader scale, Goodson highlighted seven essential components of an immune-boosting diet.

1. Vitamins and minerals

Essential vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E — along with minerals like zinc and selenium — are vital for the proper functioning of the immune system, she pointed out.

“These micronutrients contribute to the production and activity of immune cells, the regulation of inflammation and the protection of cells from oxidative stress,” Goodson said.

2. Antioxidants

Found in fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods, antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, which can damage cells and compromise the immune system, she noted.

“Berries, citrus fruits and leafy greens are rich sources of antioxidants that contribute to overall immune resilience,” the expert said.

3. Protein

Adequate protein intake is essential for the synthesis of antibodies and immune system proteins, according to Goodson.

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“Protein-rich foods, including lean meats, fish, dairy and plant-based sources like beans and lentils, support the body’s ability to mount an effective immune response,” she said.

4. Gut health

“A significant portion of the immune system resides in the gut,” Goodson said. 

“Probiotics, found in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut, promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, positively influencing immune function and overall digestive health.”

5. Omega-3 fatty acids

“Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), flaxseeds and walnuts, contribute to a balanced inflammatory response and support the immune system’s ability to combat infections,” the nutritionist said.

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6. Phytonutrients

Present in colorful fruits and vegetables, phytonutrients have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

“These compounds, such as quercetin in apples and resveratrol in grapes, contribute to immune system modulation and overall health,” said Goodson.

7. Hydration

“Proper hydration is essential for the optimal function of all bodily systems, including the immune system,” Goodson said.

Water supports the transportation of nutrients, the elimination of waste products, and the maintenance of mucous membranes, which act as a barrier against pathogens.”

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

 

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