Pharma Foodie: Foods to Boost Immunity Recap
“An apple a day,” “Hot tea with honey,” “Momma’s chicken noodle soup”… we’ve all heard of home remedies known to cure the common cold or flu but have you ever really thought about foods with immunity boosting properties? This year especially we are experiencing heightened winter sickness; the annual flu outbreak is filling hospitals and thinning out school and workplaces, about 10 times worse than last year. Poor eating habits can take a toll on our immune system and make it even easier for the pesky cold or flu bug to get into our bodies.
This past Friday I participated in my first Pharma Foodie class, a co-taught class series between Nina-Lesser Goldsmith, Healthy Living’s Food Education Coordinator, and Kimberly Evans, RD of Whole Health Nutrition, LLC. This class focused on foods that boost our immunity. The class began with a short presentation from Kim about what to focus on when trying to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Then we began the first recipe, as Nina cooked Kim explained the immunity boosting properties of the ingredients that were chosen for each dish. First on the menu was a Ginger and Lemongrass Infused Thai Chicken Soup with Baby Basmati Rice. This simple soup has that distinctive Thai flavor – a balance of spicy (from the Sriracha we added at the end), salty, sweet and sour. I can’t wait to make it again and the garlic and ginger are great for immune health.
Next we learned about the immunity boosting properties of herbs and spices which were highlighted in Fish Chaca La Vong, a fish sandwich with spicy mayo, caramelized turmeric onions and fresh herbs. The tabasco and Sriracha added to the mayo on the sandwich contain a compound called capsaicin that is an immune-system enhancer because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The caramelized onions that topped the sandwich were sweat down in the spice, turmeric. Turmeric is an immune booster for the same reasons as the spicy foods. This sandwich was outstanding. I was weary at first but the combinations of fresh, spicy, and sweet flavors were mouth-watering.
Our final dish (my personal favorite) was Grilled Hangar Steak with Spicy Lacinato Kale and Roasted Shitake Mushrooms. Kim began by telling us that about 70% of people in the United States are deficient in Vitamin D, this deficiency can lead to a suppressed immunity, increased risk of chronic disease and heightened inflammation. Mushrooms have more Vitamin D than almost any other food. Kim suggested roasting some at the beginning of the week and adding them to salads, quesadillas and side dishes throughout the week to avoid a Vitamin D deficiency. For this dish we browned mushrooms, sautéed kale and dressed them with garlic, lemon and chili flakes for a simple, delicious, nutrient-packed side dish. Nina grilled Hangar Steak which was the perfect accompaniment and made for a delicious meal.
There is a Pharma Foodie class every month; in February Kim and Nina will be teaching and cooking to relieve stress. In addition, Kim along with our two other nutritionists, Abby and Leslie, are in our produce department every Thursday and Friday sampling foods and answering all you nutrition related questions, see their schedule here.