To improve immune function, you must strengthen the defenses and remove the stressors. When our immune system gets overwhelmed, inflammation and unwelcome symptoms begin to occur. Most don’t consider the need of the immune system to react with pro- AND anti-inflammatory responses in order to heal and repair the body. To accomplish this response the body needs a balanced diet, healthy lifestyle, and the right nutrients. With the help of the following foods and proper self-care, you can boost your immune system to defend against any attack.
Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous, or cabbage family of vegetables. It provides a complex of tastes and textures, ranging from the soft and flowery florets to the fibrous and crunchy stem and stalks.
Cauliflower is also a member of the cruciferous family along with kale and cabbage. Raw cauliflower is firm yet a bit spongy in texture It has a slightly sulfurous and faintly bitter flavor (Michael Murray, 2005). Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and a very good source of fiber, potassium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. It is a good source of the trace mineral boron. Cauliflower does contain anti-cancer compounds that appear to stop enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents in the body, and they increase the enzymes that disable and eliminate carcinogens.
Swiss Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach. Swiss chard has a thick, crunchy stalk with fan like wide green leaves. Both the leaves and the stalk are edible, and their taste resembles the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves. (Michael Murray, 2005). There are at least seven different varieties of Swiss chard. It is an excellent source of carotenes, vitamins C, E, and K, dietary fiber, and chlorophyll. It is also an excellent source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese. Swiss chard is a good
source of vitamin B6, calcium, protein, thiamine, zinc, niacin, folic acid, and selenium. The combination of phytochemicals, particularly carotenes and chlorophyll, and soluble fiber makes Swiss chard one of the most powerful anticancer foods, especially against digestive tract cancers. The concentrated amount of vitamin K in Swiss chard aids in maintaining bone health.
The sweet potato is not a member of the potato or yam families but is part of the morning glory family that includes tubers. There are nearly four hundred sweet potato varieties and are grouped into two categories depending upon the texture they have when cooked (Michael Murray, 2005). Fun Fact: In the mid-twentieth
century, the sweet potato was introduced to the U.S. and given the name “yam” to distinguish it from the white fleshed sweet potato most people were accustomed to; not an actual yam. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of carotenes. The darer the variety, the higher the concentration of carotenes. Sweet potatoes are also a very good source of vitamins C and B6. They are a good source of manganese, copper, biotin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B2, and dietary fiber. Sweet potatoes contain unique root storage proteins. Which have been shown to exert significant antioxidant effects. The presence of these proteins, along with the high content of carotenes and vitamin C, makes sweet potatoes a valuable food for boosting antioxidants in your body. If that weren’t enough, sweet potatoes actually help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin response.
Superfood Cooking Tips:
- Avoid cooking potatoes in iron or aluminum pots and using a carbon-steel knife to cut them, as these metals can cause them to discolor.
- Do not cook Swiss chard in an aluminum pot since the oxalates in the chard will cause the pot to discolor.
- Cauliflower spoils quickly so cook and eat within 2 days of purchase.
- Broccoli leaves are perfectly edible and contain concentrated amounts of nutrients. Chop them up and add to a soup or stock.
Michael Murray, N. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books.