Your Immune System a Boost
With Colorful Foods
By Jane Palmer -
World-HeraldWhen family and friends gather for the
holidays, they bring more than gifts they bring germs that cause colds and the
So prepare yourself. Not with aspirin and
cold tablets, but with a good diet.
Eating a balanced diet with a variety
of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cooked dried beans and other legumes
does more for a body than vitamin pills or "super" foods.
Dietitian Barbara Berry's message: "Eat your
colors: red, orange- yellow, green, blue and white. You need something from
each of the five color groups. Every day."
Scientists are learning that the naturally
occurring chemicals that give vegetables their colors benefit the body.
A number of studies show that carotenoids,
the chemicals in plants that make fruits and vegetables look yellow, orange and
green, stimulate the human immune system's T-cells.
T-cells, in turn, help kill bacteria and
viruses, said Rick Weissinger, a dietitian who works with Berry at the
Delaware-based Produce for Better Health Foundation.
"People who consume green, yellow and orange
fruits and vegetables have a better chance of not going on to develop a
secondary or bacterial infection after they get a simple common cold virus,"
The best way to get carotenoids and other
beneficial plant chemicals is to eat the whole food: potatoes with their skins
on and whole apples, not applesauce.
The nutrients in whole, fresh oranges, for
example, do more than a carton of orange juice. The fleshy pulp helps your body
regulate histamine in the blood stream, Weissinger said.
If you eat the whole orange, you may avoid
the misery of excess histamine (runny nose, watery eyes) and taking
Berry says scientists also are learning that
the whole orange does more good when it's eaten as part of a diet that includes
a variety of fruits and vegetables. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and plant
chemicals, such as beta-carotene in carrots, do more good together than one
nutrient does alone.
"It's the food synergy message," Berry said.
Weissinger heeds that message. He recently
felt a cold coming on when family and co-workers were ill.
So for dinner, he ate a sweet potato,
blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries and drank green tea.
"I slept 10 hours," he said. "The next day,
I felt fine."
Fight flu with food
- Grab two pieces of fresh fruit, for
snacks, on your way out the door in the morning.
- Stock your freezer with frozen
vegetables of all kinds. Add to canned soup, stir-fry, casseroles and pizza
- Keep dried fruit in your desk and car
- For holiday get-togethers, buy a party
tray with assorted vegetables, including carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.
- When you turn on the grill to cook a
steak, toss on thickly sliced vegetables basted with olive oil and balsamic
vinegar. Bell peppers, onions, zucchini and eggplant are a good place to start.
- Resolve to try a new fruit or vegetable
every week in the new year.
The best colors
Romaine, spinach or other leafy green lettuce
Green bell pepper
Peach or nectarine
butternut squash or other winter squash
Information: To request a free copy of
the "Color Way Guide," send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope
Produce for Better
P.O. Box 149
Newark, DE, 19715-0149