Immunity Soup is engineered to deliver vital nutrients while providing a comforting winter meal. The immune system is a nutrient HOG! In order to keep it functioning well, we have to feed it a constant stream of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Benefits of Immunity Soup
We start with bone broth, because it’s rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and iron. To that, we add sautéed onion, which has sulphur compounds to help you detoxify. The onion is sautéed in coconut oil with some minced garlic, thyme leaves, and cumin seeds. These all have antimicrobial properties.
We know that zinc is crucial for immunity, so weuse brown lentils as an abundant source of that mineral. Then for Vitamins A & C, which provide a shot of antioxidants, we chop some veggies. Rich colors alert us to the presence of antioxidants. Weuse tomatoes, parsley, celery, carrot, kale, cabbage, and chilies – green for mild, red for spicy.
To get an anti-inflammatory benefit, we add grated ginger root & grated turmeric root (or turmeric powder).To give the immune system a boost, we put in some chopped mushrooms and a couple of bay leaves. A final touch is to add some red wine vinegar, which supports your healthy gut microbiome in fending off pathogens.
1 onion, chopped
2 Tb. coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme
4 c. bone broth
1 c. brown lentils
1 lb. ground grass-fed lamb, beef, or sausage, browned (optional)
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
1 bunch kale, chopped
4 c. cabbage, chopped
1/4 c. tomato paste or 4 tomatoes, cubed
1 Tb. dried parsley or 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
2-3 chilies according to preference
1″ each of turmeric root and ginger root, grated (or 1/2 tsp. powder)
8 mushrooms, chopped
2 bay leaves
3 Tb. red wine vinegar
1 Tb. salt
Combine all ingredients in a stock pot, crock pot, or Instant Pot. Pressure for 20 minutes, or simmer for 30 minutes, or slow cook for 4 hours.
What do insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion have in common? That may depend on your own physiological uniqueness. But for many individuals with these 3 complaints, chronic cortisol is the link.
What is cortisol and how is it made?
When your brain perceives a threat – either from within or from without – it needs a messenger to spread the alarm and get the body ready for action. So, the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary to trigger the adrenals to make cortisol from cholesterol.
You might mistakenly believe that cortisol is the enemy. Many call it The Stress Hormone and give it a bad rap. But what many people don’t realize is that cortisol is critical for you to wake up, focus, set goals, meet your deadlines, and even exercise. That’s because it rouses you out of your resting/healing state. It does that by increasing blood pressure and heart rate and raising blood sugars to that you can have energy to mobilize – whether that be dancing, debating, or dodging a bullet!
The problem is that when cortisol output becomes chronic, your body never gets to rest and digest and heal. That’s when you begin to see health issues.
Why do so many people have chronically high cortisol levels?
First, this is a go-go-go world of ongoing crises from sun-up to sundown, with alarms, alerts, and emergencies all clamoring for your attention. Urgencies control your focus. Your body responds intelligently by producing the hormone that will help you meet those demands. Unless you deliberately choose to slow down, shut down, and turn off, your body will continue to produce cortisol day and night.
Second, 60 to 80% of the American diet is refined carbohydrate, everything from Rice Krispies to Wonder Bread, and from French fries to pasta. And that’s not counting chips, candy, or pop! When you eat like that, your body needs cortisol to come to the rescue. Think of it like this:
What happens after I toss a bowling ball 10 feet in the air? Of course! It comes crashing down! Well, blood sugars are the proverbial bowling ball. You launch them into the air by loading up on meals and snacks that are not balanced with appropriate proteins and fats. The laws of nature say that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, inevitably, blood sugars plummet!
Your brain can’t tolerate that. It must be guaranteed a constant supply of glucose in order to direct the minute-by-minute management of all your body functions. So, it declares an emergency, and the hypothalamus signals the pituitary to trigger the adrenals to release cortisol to raise blood sugars back up. Cortisol alerts the muscles and the liver to release stored glucose for immediate energy. In effect, when you grab a doughnut, a Kit Kat, or a Pepsi, you stress your body into fight-or-flight.
How does cortisol instigate insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion?
Your body is smart. It knows how to put first things first. If you have a battle to fight, it will energize your muscles, increase your blood flow, and sharpen your vision. But…it will also shut down digestion and keep you alert so you don’t drift into slumber easily. After all, those things are a lower priority than simply surviving! Therefore, people with chronically high cortisol often notice symptoms such as heartburn, bloat, anxiety, and insomnia.
How can you reduce insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion?
Start in the morning by building a slow-burning, enduring metabolic fire. You prevent a cortisol spike by avoiding a blood sugar trough. Figuratively speaking, you have to put coal in your steam engine. What would happen if you tried to run a steam engine train with a pile of newspapers? It wouldn’t work! The train would get 2 feet down the track and stop.
Fruit juices, cereal, white flours, and sweeteners are like newspapers. They burn hot and fast, and extinguish quickly. They don’t power you for the long haul. “Coal” comes from healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, butter, coconut oil, olives, and avocados.
That might mean adding Greek yogurt to your oatmeal, putting an avocado in your green smoothie, eating a couple of eggs with your toast or having a sausage patty with your hash browns. Please, please, please don’t grab a bowl of cereal with skin milk, or run out the door with a granola bar!
Next, when you grab a snack, pair a healthy fat with a high-fiber fruit or vegetable. For example, you might eat hummus and carrots, cottage cheese and peaches, coconut milk and blueberries, olives and baby bell peppers, almond butter and apples, or guacamole and mango.
While there are many factors that contribute to insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion, stabilizing cortisol output with balanced eating can improve these complaints dramatically.
What if, instead of cereal, you had soup for breakfast? It might sound odd in America, but all over the world, healthy cultures feast on breakfast soup several times per week.
Historical Bias for Breakfast Soup
There’s an old saying: “Breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper.” In blue zones – 5 places around the world where people consistently live over 100 years old – breakfast looks more like dinner. In most cases, the first meal of the day consists of protein, plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, oils), and beans or vegetables.
Many Japanese eat Sumo Stew first thing in the morning is normal. Also, Nigerians often enjoy Egg Stew, Chinese slurp Congee (rice porridge with egg and meat), and Columbians have their Changua (milk soup with poached eggs). From Mohinga (fish & noodle soup) in Burma to Lablabi (chickpea soup) in Tunisia, people around the globe have been eating soup for breakfast forever. And let’s not forget Vietnamese Pho, or Indian Ginger Rasam (lentil soup).
Yet, according to a survey that Kellogg’s conducted, only 34% of adult Americans eat breakfast at all.
Advantages of Soup for Breakfast
Here’s how soup beats cereal for your morning meal:
First, it stabilizes your blood sugars. Steaming broths rich in amino acids, and vegetables in healthy fats help insure you don’t have an insulin spike today. Add to that protein-rich meats and legumes, and you have a true winner.
Second, those who eat a hearty meal in the morning are more likely to lose weight. One study followed two groups of people who ate the same number of calories, but distributed them differently throughout the day. This first group ate more calories at breakfast, while the second group ate more calories at dinner. The group that consumed the larger breakfast lost 2.5 times more weight than the the group that ate a larger dinner group. Additionally, the first group lost four more inches around the waist. ”What we have seen is that people on diets with the same number of calories who front-load calories to the earlier part of the day fare better in terms of subjective and objective measures of satiety,” researchers said.
Further, those who eat like a king at breakfast are more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI). “Studies have found that although people who skip breakfast eat slightly fewer calories during the day, they tend to have higher body mass index, or BMI,” says Christy C. Tangney, PhD, a clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center and an expert on the effects of diet and nutrition on heart health.
Finally, an ample breakfast encourages a vigorous metabolism. When you eat well in the morning, you’re telling your body that there are plenty of calories available for the day. When you skimp on breakfast, the message you send your body is that it needs to conserve rather than burn any incoming calories.
Not sure you want to eat international fare? Here are some American recipes that will give you the same benefits that cultures around the world enjoy.
This recipe comes from Mickey Trescott at AutoimmuneWellness.com.
1 tablespoon solid cooking fat
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
3 cups water
4 lbs. whole chicken
1 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cubed
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 cups baby spinach
½ lemon, juiced
Place the solid cooking fat in the bottom of your Instant Pot and select the “saute” function. When the fat has melted and the pot is hot, add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent and lightly browned, about six minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another 30 seconds, until aromatic.
Put the water into the pot and turn off the heat. Add the chicken, squash, and sea salt to the pot. Lock the lid, and set your machine to pressure cook on the manual “high” setting for 16 minutes.
When the machine indicates the dish is finished cooking, immediately place a towel over the steam valve, carefully opening with the use of a wooden spoon (careful — you can burn yourself easily here!) to quick-release the pressure. Once the steam is released, remove the lid, and allow to cool.
Once the dish has cooled enough, remove the whole chicken from the pot, take off the meat, and place back in the pot with the spinach and lemon juice. Place back into the Instant Pot container to heat to temperature, and enjoy!
If you are going to be portioning this soup into jars for storage in the freezer, allow it to cool completely and spend 24 hours in the refrigerator before doing so — the soup will have a better flavor when you reheat it!
Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
3 cups bone broth
1 lb. ground sausage, browned
2 cups diced raw sweet potato
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 cups kale, chopped
Saute the onion and garlic in coconut oil until translucent.
Put all ingredients except kale in a crock pot or soup pot and simmer until sweet potato is tender (20 minutes on stovetop, 2-3 hours in a crock pot).
Add the kale and cook 2-3 minutes more, just until kale is wilted.
Is binge-eating synonymous with Christmas? Too often, merry turns into miserable when gas, indigestion, and heartburn strike after a night of gorging on goodies! Functional Nutrition can help you digest and absorb your food better in order to end holiday bloat.
Use these five tips to keep your holidays happy:
Eat real. Focus on foods that don’t come with a nutrition label. You are more likely to be satisfied with less when you eat whole foods. Consider which of these offerings is likely to give your body what it needs so it will turn off the hunger signals. They are both fish: Atlantic salmon, and Swedish Fish candies.
Sip herbal tea: Used for centuries, peppermint and chamomile are two pleasant herbs that can power up digestion, relieve gas, reduce bloat, and end indigestion. Additionally, sipping the hot water can soothe your stomach. As the water moves through your your system, it hydrates your organs so they are better able to eliminate waste.
Nibble bitter food. Fennel seeds and ginger root are classified as digestive bitters. A little at the end of your meal will promote gall bladder contractions and intestinal movement to prevent stagnant stomach. You can toast fennel seeds in a dry skillet until golden brown for enhanced flavor and performance. Ginger can be shaved to be eaten in thin curls.
Stretch into some yoga poses. Marichyasana improves digestion by twisting and massaging the abdominal organs. Pavana muktasana releases trapped gas and cures indigestion by stimulating peristalsis, the wavelike motion of the intestines.
Go for a walk. Rather than slumping onto the couch, which accentuates lethargic digestion, get up and move! Even just a slow stroll will stimulate your organs to work better.
Now, on the list of don’ts: avoid reaching for Tums or Zantac. We believe in functional nutrition that what you absorb is just as important as what you eat. To rev up sluggish digestion, you need MORE stomach acid, not less. So, enjoy good food and good company, don’t rush your meals, chew thoroughly, and implement the strategies above to prevent and end holiday bloat, gas, and indigestion.
Inflammation might be messing with your willpower. Check yourself. First, do you get distracted easily from your goals? Next, does your thinking seem foggy? Finally, do you give in to temptations after you have vowed to abstain? While self-discipline is an important quality, your ability to focus on your intentions may have physiological roots.
A new study tested how inflammation impacted willpower. The results indicated that higher levels of inflammation correlated with undesirable behaviors. For example, subjects were more likely to be impulsive, to delay gratification, and to have difficulty focusing when their inflammation levels rose.
A group of researchers at TCU measured chronic inflammation in their subjects through various blood tests. Then they provoked inflammation by administering LPS (lipopolysaccharide). At length, they determined that the higher inflammation levels were, the more likely their subjects were to report poor concentration, greater impulsivity, and less self-control.
The Role of Inflammation in Your Body
Articles and blog posts lead us to believe that all inflammation is damaging. However, inflammation does play an important role in your health. When you receive an injury, your brilliant body creates inflammation to kill infection and clean up damaged tissues. Once your body heals the injury, inflammation subsides. But for many individuals, inflammation is chronic because the injuries are ongoing from poor lifestyle choices.
Unfortunately, inflammation that doesn’t go away contributes to scores of health problems, from headaches to heart disease, and from constipation to cancer. With the recently-published study from TCU, it seems that inflammation even hurts your willpower. Once deep-seated inflammation takes root in your body, you may be more prone to poor decisions that increase inflammation even more. For instance, you might eat more candy, drink more alcohol, or vape more nicotine because your willpower diminishes. So it becomes a downward spiral. The sugary treat you indulge in once actually makes you less capable of self-control over future temptations.
Sources of Inflammation
Many factors contribute to inflammation. Most of these causes are linked to lifestyle: chronic stress, insufficient sleep, alcohol and tobacco use, and food choices. Diet can have more influence than any other cause. Diets high in sugars, refined and processed foods, and unhealthy fats seem to be the most inflammatory.
Control Inflammation, Control Willpower
Want to reduce inflammation and increase your willpower? There are many tactics you can employ today that will increase your control over your mind. These include:
Significantly limiting your intake of sugars and processed foods.
Choosing whole foods free of preservatives and additives.
Working with a health care practitioner to identify nutritional deficiencies and to make dietary adjustments to return your body to balance.
Limiting alcohol and smoking.
Participating in moderate physical activity every day.
Engaging in stress-reducing activities frequently and consistently.
Sleeping more than 7 hours every night.
The bottom line is that to triumph by mind over matter, you need to support matter over mind.
Do I really need more omega-3 fat in my diet? How much is enough? How can I increase my omega-3 levels? Isn’t flax seed oil just as good as fish oil? These are questions I hear a lot in my practice.
Why are Omega-3’s Essential Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are classified as essential because your body can’t make them. But you need them for life itself. Every cell in your body incorporates omega-3’s into its membranes, in order for nutrients to enter and wastes to exit. Omega-3 fats are necessary for cell receptors to work properly. Not only that, you have to have omega-3’s to create hormones that regulate blood clotting, inflammation, and arterial dilation. They seems to be important in preventing heart disease and stroke, and may help control eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and other immune conditions. They may even be cancer-protective.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA is the most common in the American diet, showing up in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, particularly walnuts, chia, and flax. The other two omega-3 fats are considered marine oils because they occur mainly in fish. EPA and DHA do not exist in plants.
Why is DHA Important?
DHA, short for docosahexaenoic acid, perhaps should be considered an essential fatty acid in and of itself. While your body can convert some ALA from nuts and seeds into DHA, that conversion rate is less than 10%.
DHA is critical for your brain. A full fifth of all the fat in your brain is from DHA. Additionally, DHA functions like the insulation on all the electrical wires in your house: it forms the myelin that insulates all your brain circuits. The reason animals have DHA and plants don’t is because it’s used for focus, decision making, and problem solving. I haven’t met any reasoning plants, yet.
The science of essential fatty acids is still young, and there are not defined minimums for omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. But here are some recommendations that we do have: According to the National Institutes of Health, an adequate intake of ALA for women is 1100 milligrams per day (1600 mg/day for men). The USDA 2015 dietary guidelines encourage adults to obtain at least 250 mg per day of marine omega-3 fatty acids to protect against heart disease.
Best Sources of DHA
Land animals have very little omega-3 compared to fish. While grass-fed beef may have twice as much omega-3 fat as corn-fed beef, still it only has about 80 milligrams in 3-4 ounces, compared to 1000 milligrams in the same size serving of salmon. Recently, however, lamb has come to the forefront as an alternative for those who can’t abide the smell or taste of fish. The chart below compares the amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in various cuts of meat.
Still, those numbers include ALA, and are not truly reflective of the amount of DHA available for your body. So, the bottom line is that yes, you do need to eat fish! A good recommendation is 8 ounces per week.
The Thanksgiving dilemma is that we want to FEAST, but we don’t want the food coma that follows!When you make your Thanksgiving unprocessed, you will actually eat less and be more satisfied! Switch out manufactured foods for whole foods that don’t come with a nutrition label to have a truly pleasurable meal that doesn’t leave you feeling sluggish and sick!
It’s time to think outside the box – the stuffing box! In this wild rice stuffing, say goodbye to stale bread & long ingredient lists. Say hello to tender wild rice, crispy bacon, mushrooms, herbs, nuts, & cranberries.
1 c. wild rice blend
2 c. chicken bone broth
1 bay leaf
1 Tb. butter
6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1 onion, diced
8 crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
½ c. fresh cranberries
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tb. fresh snipped sage
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Salt & pepper to taste
Bring the bone broth to a simmer. Add the wild rice, bay leaf, and butter. Then cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the onions, mushrooms, garlic and celery in a little bit of the grease left from cooking the bacon. When vegetables are soft, stir in cranberries and cook just until they pop. Mix in the herbs.
Combine the rice, bacon, sauteed vegetables and nuts. Season to taste. Voila! A classic recipe for Thanksgiving, unprocessed and original!
Green Beans with Mushroom Gravy
Forget the canned soup for this green bean casserole that is loaded with flavor! Portobello mushrooms and balsamic vinegar are sauteed in butter and thyme, then topped with baked leeks for a bit of crunch in this amazing unprocessed Thanksgiving comfort food!
1 leeks, thinly sliced (white part only)
1/2 Tb. avocado oil
1/8 tsp. each salt and paprika
24 oz. frozen green beans
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 1/2 c. sliced portabello mushrooms
3 minced cloves garlic
2 Tb. butter
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tb. balsamic vinegar
¾ c bone broth
24 oz. (2 pkg.) frozen green beans
Toss the leeks with avocado oil, paprika and salt. Microwave in a covered bowl for 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spreading them out into a single layer. Place 6″ beneath the oven element and cook on low broil for 4-5 minutes until golden.
Saute the onion, mushrooms, and garlic in butter and thyme until tender. Add salt, vinegar, and broth. Simmer 10 minutes. Blend until smooth.
Steam the green beans according to package directions. Fold beans into mushroom gravy. Garnish with leeks.
Traditional Candied Yams
Dates, pure maple syrup and cinnamon lend a decadent sweetness to these classy candied yams– without artificial ingredients — to make an unforgettable comfort food for your Thanksgiving Unprocessed.
6 c. yams, peeled and cubed (2-3 yams)
4 Tb. butter, melted
1 c. chopped pitted dates
1/2 c. boiling water
4 Tb. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ c. unsweetened coconut flakes
2 Tb. butter, melted
Toss yams with 4 Tb. butter and layer in a 9×13 baking pan. Roast at 425° for 25 minutes.
While yams are roasting, pour boiling water over dates to soften. After 5 minutes, strain the dates. Combine the dates, maple syrup, cinnamon, coconut flakes, and 2 Tb. butter. Toss with roasted yams and bake at 350 for 15-20 more minutes.
Pass up the frozen dough and gluten bloat when you make this absolutely scrumptious corn bread from millet, buttermilk, and sweet potatoes. No sugar needed!
2 Tb. coconut oil
1 c. millet flour
1/4 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. sea salt
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. sweet potato, cooked and mashed
Melt the coconut oil in a 10″ oven-proof skillet.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mashed potato, and egg. Add the potato mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combine
Spoon into skillet and bake in a preheated 425° oven for 20 minutes.
Fresh Fruit Salad
In this rosy cranberry fruit salad, there’s no need for imitation whipped topping! The unprocessed burst of flavor comes from honey, warm spices, and orange juice, perfect for your Thanksgiving meal!
5 whole cloves
3-4 allspice berries
1 stick cinnamon
½ c. honey
½ c. orange juice
1 pkg. fresh cranberries
2 red pears, diced
2 green apples, cubed
Put spices in the center of a coffee filter. Bring the edges together like a bag to enclose the spices. Secure with a wire twist tie or a piece of string. Put the honey and orange juice in a saucepan. Add spice bag. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half.
Remove and discard the spice bag. Add the cranberries to the pot and cook until berries are softened. Remove from heat. Cool, then add pears and apples.
Unprocessed Thanksgiving Pie
You’ll love this mouthwatering no-bake pumpkin pie! The yummy cookie crust contains only unsweetened coconut flakes and dates. So there are no trans-fats or processed flours. And the delicious pumpkin filling is made without canned milk!
2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1 ½ c. pitted medjool dates, roughly chopped
Process the coconut flakes and dates until the mixture resembles brown sugar. Press mixture firmly into a pie tin. If you desire a crisper crust, poke holes in it with a fork and bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes. Cool and fill.
1 Tb. gelatin
3 Tb. water, divided
2 c. cooked pumpkin (may be fresh, frozen or canned)
2 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ c. butter, softened
1/3 c. honey
Soften the gelatin in 1 Tb. cold water. Add 2 Tb. boiling water and whisk until frothy. Blend the gelatin mixture, pumpkin, spices, butter, and honey. Pour into crust & refrigerate.
Your Thanksgiving Unprocessed
When you eat real food, you are less likely to overeat. But if you do happen to gorge yourself on all this appetizing, nourishing food, your best bet is to take a walk instead of hit the couch.
If you feel bloated or have heartburn, try these natural remedies instead of reaching for Tums or Zantac:
With a chill in the air, I’m eager for an oven-roasted meal full of fall flavors! But just because I’m eating whole foods doesn’t mean cooking a sheet pan meal needs to be complicated. When my husband wants take-out, I tell him I can have the meal ready before he can drive to the take-out counter and get home again. Really, a sheet pan meal only needs 20-25 minutes to cook – no tending needed! Throw it in the oven and read a book while it makes its magic of savory deliciousness!
Advantages of a Sheet Pan Meal over Fast Food
Aids detoxification with its inclusion of onions, garlic, or other alliums.
Anti-inflammatory! Find me one fast food meal that isn’t inflammatory!
Provides antioxidants to protect your cells against damage that leads to disease.
Can be adapted to any budget, any level of pickiness, any dietary restraints.
Uses good fats that are necessary to your health and avoids bad fats that contribute to inflammation.
Contains more vegetables than the typical take-out meal.
Doesn’t contribute to blood sugar imbalance.
Aborts cravings because it is so filling, mouthwatering, and nutrient-dense!
Saves well, so you can make a double or triple batch and not have to cook again for a couple of days.
So, let’s get started!
Pick Your Protein
What’s your preference: land or sea? A sheet pan meal needn’t be limited to beef or chicken. Shrimp, crab, scallops, fish fillets, and even mussels work wonderfully in oven-roasted fare. So do pork, venison, and lamb! Vegans can use products such as tempeh to create an appetizing dish. How much you use is up to you. I recommend 3-6 ounces per person, cut into bite-size pieces.
Choose Some Color
Here’s where it gets fun! Think of the rainbow. Mix and match colors and flavors to suit your personal preferences. Add as many as you like, but make sure you have at least 1/2 cup of cubed or julienned produce per person. Include firm fruits to provide sweetness if you want. The options you select for your individualized sheet pan meal may lend themselves to a particular ethnic flavor, so let your creativity reign! (See image at the end of this post.)
Yellow/Orange: summer squash, winter squash including pumpkin, yellow and orange bell peppers, pineapple, yellow beets, sweet potatoes/yams, carrots, and corn
Red: tomatoes, beets, red bell peppers, chili peppers, radishes, cranberries, red pear, rhubarb, red pear
Purple: eggplant, purple endive, purple cabbage, purple carrots, purple potatoes, dried plums, black currants, figs, or even elderberries
Green: beans, peas, broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, artichoke hearts, celery, endive, celery, green bell pepper, jalapeno, green chilies, serrano pepper
Grab Some Leafy Greens
In traditional cultures, a meal is not complete without some dark green leaves. Think beyond spinach here! Some options are mustard or beet greens, chard, kale, collards, arugula, bok choy, rapini, and watercress. Be generous because they are one of the most concentrated sources of nutrients on the planet. They will cook down substantially, so aim for at least 1 cup torn leaves per person. Since these do not require a long cook time, you can just toss them onto your sheet pan meal the last 3-5 minutes of cooking.
Remember The Sulphurs
No sheet pan meal – or other meal, for that matter – is truly balanced in flavor and composition without sulphurs. What are these? Primarily, they are the foods in the onion family, including leeks, garlic, chives, shallots, and scallions. But that’s not all. Mushrooms are sulphurs, too. So are the cruciferous vegetables. If you haven’t already added a cruciferous vegetable as one of your colors, here’s your chance to include some of the healthiest plant foods of all time. One onion and 2-3 cloves garlic are usually sufficient quantities for a single recipe of this oven-roasted entree.
Dress With a Temperature-Safe Oil
Polyunsaturated liquid oils, such as canola and safflower, are unstable and degrade at high temperatures. So stick with monounsaturated or saturated fats, like avocado oil, coconut oil, pastured tallow, or ghee (clarified butter). If your oil is solid, warm it enough to melt it, then toss with all your other ingredients in your sheet pan meal. Use about 1 tablespoon for every 2-3 cups of food on your tray.
Season With Herbs and Spices
Flavor your dish to suit your palate. Fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, tarragon, and sage are winners. You may also like chili powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, bay leaf, paprika, or cayenne. Just sprinkle your favorite flavors over you meal until the vegetables are very lightly dusted. Don’t forget salt and pepper. Now slide the whole tray into a preheated 450 degree oven and bake until meat is cooked through and vegetables are fork-tender (20-30 minutes). I usually turn the food after about 15 minutes to insure even cooking.
The Finishing Touch
When the sheet pan meal comes out of the oven, I like to give it just a splash of vinegar to add depth of flavor. My favorite is balsamic vinegar, but red wine vinegar is good, too! Of course, rice vinegar would be the perfect choice for an Asian meal.
You know washing your hands helps prevent the spread of germs, but there are 4 more action tools you can use to fight colds and flu.
1. Deeply Nourish Your Body
Your immune system is a nutrient hog. It uses more nutrients than any other system or organ – even your brain. To work optimally, it needs vitamins A, C, E, D, K, B6, B9, and B12. In addition, it requires the minerals zinc, selenium, iron, iodine, magnesium, and copper. Also, your immune system needs antioxidants and essential fatty acids.
So while it might be easy to gulp an “Emergen-C” tablet with a glass of water when you feel a sore throat coming on, you need a lot of nutrients all the time to fight colds and flu. It’s smart to regularly eat foods that are nutrient dense. These include dark leafy greens, brightly-colored produce, omega 3-rich fatty fish, and organ meats. I posted about how these foods are also anti-inflammatory. It’s as if nature is showing us their benefit by displaying such rich, vibrant colors.
2. Relax a Lot!
We know that stress raises inflammation. Did you know it raises your blood sugars, too? That’s bad news if you’re under chronic stress. Why? Chronically high blood sugars lead to insulin resistance and even more inflammation.
But that’s not all. Scientists think they have found a link between insulin resistance and decreased immunity. Insulin appears to boost immune T-cells. When mice were genetically engineered with missing insulin receptors in their T-cells (to mimic insulin resistance), they were unable to fight certain infections, including the H1N1 flu virus.
So the bottom line is that to fight colds and flu, you need to guard against inflammation and insulin resistance that can impair immunity. In order to do that, you need to manage your stress effectively. Take time every day to unwind. It only takes a few minutes to employ one or two of the 50 stress hacks I have compiled.
3. Feed the Right Bugs
Since as much as 80% of your immune system lies within your digestive tract, it makes sense that the micro-organisms that live there should be healthy. If you feed the symbiotic bacteria that lie in your GI tract, you can boost your immunity. These helpful bacteria serve as “bouncers” against pathogenic strains of microbes that cause illness.
Your “good” bacteria like to eat fiber! They especially like to feast on cruciferous vegetables, the onion family, and asparagus! But they don’t digest simple sugars. In fact, white sugar and white flour are fodder for pathogens.
Cutting out refined carbohydrates from your diet does not guarantee you can fight off all colds and flu. But your odds are much higher if you do get sick, that you’ll bounce back quicker if you cut down on the sugar.
4. Sleep More
When you sleep, your body “cleans house.” It repairs what is broken, sweeps up what is dirty, and takes out the trash. This is the time when your immune system is most effective at fending off invaders and reducing inflammation. So, reason says that if you are sleep deprived, you are less able to fight cold and flu viruses.
But there’s more. When you are chronically sleep-deprived, your body actually initiates a stress response, raising blood sugars and creating inflammation. You can become insulin resistant with just 36 hours of sleep deprivation.
Ultimately, you end up with an impaired immune system. That means greater susceptibility to illness.
Here are some suggestions for better sleep:
Create a bedtime that allows for 7-9 hours of sleep.
Eat a nutrient dense diet (see #1).
Exercise, but do it at least 4 hours before bedtime.
Stick to the same sleep schedule every day.
Get sunlight in the morning.
Cool your room.
Avoid blue light before bed.
Engage in evening meditation.
Fight Colds and Flu
No one can avoid all illness forever. But taking care of your health by eating well, relaxing frequently, sleeping enough, and nourishing your microbiome will keep you strong so that if you do get sick, you can recover rapidly.
You may take supplements to reduce inflammation, such as curcumin. But there are several entire food types you need to include in your daily routine! These groups are your weapons against inflammation. In fact, their mere absence in your diet may make you vulnerable to inflammation.
Let’s review a few key concepts:
Inflammation is the battleground where your white blood cells clash against invaders. When there is injury to your tissues, inside or out, the body sends its soldiers, white blood cells, to the scene, to fight against whatever is causing harm. That might be bacteria, in the case of a skinned knee, or foreign proteins, in the case of an allergy. A special substance, known as histamine, opens up the tissues to let the white blood cells in. During and after the battle, there is a lot of cell debris that must be cleaned up. These open tissues, full of white blood cells and cellular debris are classified as “inflamed.”
Oxidative stress causes inflammation. The process of living creates free radicals – atoms with unpaired electrons. Since electrons naturally seek to be paired, these free radicals cause tissue damage when they “steal” electrons from various cells in your body. Normally, your body has “antioxidant mechanisms” to combat this damage. But when the number of free radicals outstrips your antioxidant potential, the tissue damage accumulates and you become inflamed.
If you have symptoms, you have inflammation. Simply put, when inflammation is occurring, you perceive pain, swelling, heat, or other forms of discomfort. Symptoms are the signal for you to slow down, take care of yourself, and support healing. Good nutrition, restorative sleep and stress management allow your body to amass its resources against the problem.
Only chronic inflammation is a problem. Because inflammation is a necessary part of healing, we don’t want to squelch it all together. But not being able to put out the fire puts your body in a state of distress that leaves you open for diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and heart disease. Since chronic disease in America is epidemic, you need several weapons against inflammation.
Inflammation Weapon #1 – Polyphenols
Polyphenols are absolutely vital! They are the antioxidant compounds! Therefore, they fight free radical damage and are thereby anti-inflammatory. Polyphenols are naturally found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate, and wine. There are literally thousands upon thousands of polyphenols. You might recognize some of their them: quercetin, catechins, anthocyanins, lignans and resveratrol. The biggest group of polyphenols are known as flavanoids. These are the pigments that that give brightly-colored produce their rich, vibrant colors.
To make sure that you can combat oxidative stress, you should eat at least of cup of richly-colored produce daily. A cup every meal would be better. To do this, eat the rainbow! Include fruits and vegetables that are red, orange, yellow, green, purple/blue, and even white every time you eat.
An additional benefit of polyphenols is that they feed your health-supporting gut microbes. Consequently, they increase your wellness because a happy microbiome makes a happy host.
#2 – Fight Inflammation with Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens, such as cress, arugula, chard, mustard greens, beet greens, kale, and spinach, are tops (pun intended)! Not only do these plant tops fight inflammation, they help stabilize blood sugars and also support detoxification. Stabilizing blood sugars is important because blood sugar fluctuations can trigger inflammation.
Dark green leaves are full of polyphenols, including beta carotene and quercetin. But they also contain folate, which is a must for detoxification. You see, in order to mop up the inflammation, your liver has to be able to detoxify all those waste products from the battle. Your liver depends on folate in a process called methylation where it makes your master antioxidant, glutathione. You cannot fight inflammation without enough folate as a weapon.
Every indigenous culture has depended on some type of leafy greens as a mainstain in its diet. Asians, Africans, and Indians can teach us much about how to eat more greens. Challenge yourself to not eat a meal without dark leaves included.
#3 – Fatty Fish are Anti-Inflammatory
Dark and oil-rich fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring, are your best source of the Omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. These fatty acids are associated with lower levels of inflammation. However, your body can’t manufacture them. So, it’s important to get them through your diet. While plant sources of Omega 3’s, including flax and chia, are popular, they provide only ALA, that must be converted to DHA and EPA. Your body doesn’t do this conversion very efficiently, and you lose much of your Omega 3 potential during the process. Consequently, it’s best to not rely only on plant sources for these anti-inflammatory fatty acids.
As a bonus, the dark-fleshed fatty fish also include a special polyphenol called CoQ10. This polyphenol has powerful antioxidant properties. Eating fish about 3 times per week will provide the anti-inflammatory benefit you need.
Bonus Inflammation Weapon
There’s one food that has more Vitamin A than brightly-colored produce, more folate than leafy greens, and more coQ10 than fatty fish. That’s organ meat – specifically liver. Of course, it makes sense that the organ that plays the biggest role in fighting inflammation would be a storehouse for the nutrients needed for this process. Although liver is not a significant part of American food culture, you can include it in your diet by mixing ground liver in with ground meats – hamburger, pork sausage and ground poultry products, such as turkey sausage.
A little bit of liver goes a long way. Just an ounce a day will provide the many nutrients you depend as weapons against inflammation.