The fall and winter are typically seasons of increased interest in immune system “boosting”. Adding the current epidemiological situation and the fact that it coincides with the so-called flu season, we tend to be more and more interested in supporting our immune system. Leafy greens are here to help us.
What types of food support our immune system?
There’s an abundance of information on types of produce that naturally help our bodies improve the immune system. Some of these, and the most popular at the same time, are lemon, honey, and ginger. However, if we want to strengthen our immune system, we should remember that are plenty of other, lesser known immunity-enhancing ingredients.
Pregnant women and those who plan their pregnancy know folate (vitamin B9) very well as it protects against neural tube defects during fetal development. However, folate may also boost our immunity as it is responsible for producing antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria. Leafy green vegetables are one of the best sources of folate in our diet. The vegetables that contain the highest amounts of folate include, among others, spinach and kale.
Vitamin C deficiency can lead to a weakening of the immune system. In the case of a common cold, it is one of the most recommended vitamins to take. One of the most commonly known sources of this vitamin are citruses, especially lemons. Of course, it is advisable to include citrus fruits in our diet, but we must remember that 100 g of lemon provides approximately 50 mg of this vitamin. For comparison, the same amount of spinach provides 68 mg, kale – 120 mg, and parsley – 178 mg.
Additionally, vitamin C increases the absorption of iron from plant sources.Therefore, products that combine these two ingredients (including parsley, spinach) strengthen the immune system and protect us from anemia. They are also a significant part of the vegan diet, in which we eliminate animal products that are the source of better digestible heme iron.
Consuming food rich in beta-carotene is not only one of key ways to achieving a beautiful skin tone. Beta-carotene plays a crucial role in our immune system and protects the body against harmful excess of free radicals. Vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are a rich source of beta-carotene. We can also find it in other green, orange, yellow and red vegetables and fruit.
Polyphenols are a group of compounds that occur naturally in plants. Polyphenols play a significant role in the prevention of cancer or cardiovascular diseases. They have a positive effect on the lipid profile and exhibit anti-inflammatory effects.
Green leafy vegetables are also a source of polyunsaturated Omega-3 acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid. It is an anti-inflammatory ingredient, so we should pay more attention to include it our diet. Although green leafy vegetables are not as rich in Omega-3 acids as, for example, fish, nuts, or vegetable oils, they are worth mentioning especially if we eliminate animal products from the diet.
Leafy green vegetables on our plates
We can include leafy green vegetables in our dishes in many ways. Their nutritional value is high, but not everyone loves their taste. However, leafy green vegetables do not have to be served in a traditional form. They can be prepared in many ways in order to encourage even the fussiest eaters to try them. Try including them in vegetable patties, salads, casseroles, homemade sandwich spreads, cocktails, and smoothies.
Make sure to choose the right spices to make the “greens” taste more distinctive. Leafy green vegetables are best with garlic, hot pepper, curry, or smoked pepper.
Enrich the dish with aromatic additives – they will provide nutritional value and improve the taste of the dish. Examples of this type of add-ons include cranberries, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds.
Combine “greens” with your favourite fruit to prepare healthy smoothies. If you do not like leafy green vegetables in a savoury version, try to combine them with fruit. Banana, blueberry, mango, pear, and apple work excellent for smoothies. To make them even healthier, add such valuable ingredients as bran, chia seeds, flaxseeds, or nuts.
The right serving, the tasty composition of ingredients, and various combinations can make leafy green vegetables more than just “greens”. Let’s eat them regularly, our immune system will be able to better protect us from diseases.