The cold and flu season is here, and all the usual precautions apply: wash your hands often, increase the size of your “bubble” and do not touch your face. I’m talkin’ to you, picking your nose at a stoplight! Seriously, though, that is the easiest way for pathogens to enter your body in sufficient force to cause illness. I don’t get sick very often, despite encountering a lot of people every day. I attribute that to a plant based diet, but recovering from a cold right now has prompted me to remind myself of some cold and flu secrets.
I have a problem with the germ theory of disease. There are pathogenic bacteria and viruses all around us, yet we only get sick occasionally. Some people get sick, but those closest to them do not. So something else is at work here, and that something is the immune system. A healthy immune system should be able to resist any infection.
So hygiene aside, what can we do to optimize our immune system?
- Get enough sleep- Sleep deprivation causes stress that interferes with immune response
- Reduce stress- Stress puts the immune system on hold until the threat is over
- Exercise- Moderate, regular exercise like base training improves immune function
- Nutrition- Get lots of phytochemicals and micronutrients, from food, not supplements
G-BOMBS to the Rescue
Big ups to Dr. Fuhrman and his recent book Super Immunity for details about how lifestyle impacts the immune system for both infectious disease and cancer. He created that acronym to serve as a reminder of the most potent immune system supporting foods to include as often as possible.
G- Greens: all leafy green and cruciferous vegetables like kale, collards, spinach, chard, cabbage, broccoli
B- Beans: all varieties of beans, peas and lentils
O- Onions: anything in the allium family: onions, leeks and garlic
M- Mushrooms: turns out this low calorie filler has potent immune benefits
B- Berries: antioxidants and more, grapes included
S- Seeds: especially pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame
You do not have to have all of these ingredients in the same dish or meal; spread throughout the day they provide the same benefit. But it is kinda fun to see if you can pack them all into one dish.
Here is one G-BOMBS Dish:
Based on a Spanish dish
Saute some chopped onion and garlic until soft. Add a bunch of chopped chard, a few sliced white mushrooms, and some diced tomato. Cover and steam for a few minutes. Uncover and add a can of drained garbanzo beans, a handful or raisins or currants, and season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and a splash of balsamic. Heat through. Garnish with sunflower seeds and serve over rice, potatoes or your favorite starch.
I got my copy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Super Immunity from my mom, and so we decided to try a recipe that we both had our eyes on. In my ongoing quest to eat five bunches of greens a week for Lent, I needed another good recipe. I love North African spicing, but have not really tried those spices with a dish so heavy on leafy greens. I also rarely cook mustard greens, and this was a good opportunity to try those as well. In typical Fuhrman fashion, this recipe includes his favorite high nutrient foods: cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, the allium family, and mushrooms. We added cooked chickpeas to make a main dish out of it and served it over a Kashi pilaf.
Excellent dish! I was worried that either the mustard greens would be too strong or that the spices might be a but too much since it called for a full tablespoon of cinnamon, but they were fine when added to two huge bunches of greens, collards and mustard. I wanted more heat, but the other folks were content with the way it came out.
Next up for us to try from the book is his Creamy Cruciferous Curry.