Jan. 27, 2021

Topic: foods for immune health

President's Blog
Margaret Hudson
President, Burnbrae Farms
4th Generation Farmer

With Covid-19 in the news, you’ve probably seen lots of information about getting the right nutrients to support immune health. As outlined in this post , the immune system plays a very important role in your overall health – it defends against viruses and bacteria. Certain nutrients, such as protein, omega-3 fat, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C, D and E are critical for normal immune function. But which foods contain these important nutrients? What should you be adding to your grocery cart…and your dinner plate? That’s what we’ll look at today.

It’s important to remember that there’s no single food that magically makes you healthy; rather, it’s your overall diet and lifestyle that matter most. They are many nutritious foods that make up a healthy plate, including all vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and proteins (such as eggs, meat, poultry, dairy, beans, nuts, and seeds). I’ve highlighted some foods that stand out because they contain a mix of immune-supporting nutrients. Use the foods on this list to inspire your own grocery list and meal plans.

Eggs : Protein is required for proper immune system functioning. When scientists measure protein quality – known as “biological value” -- it’s often evaluated compared to eggs, which are given the perfect score of 100 and are considered the gold standard for protein quality. In addition to protein, eggs are also a source of immune-supporting selenium and vitamins A, D and E. You can choose Naturegg Omega-3 eggs for an added nutritional boost, since omega-3 fats are part of the structure of all immune cells . Try this Egg and Broccoli Casserole .

Berries : All fruits are great, but berries stand out for their role in immune function because of their combination of fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants. You can snack on fresh, dried, or frozen berries, or add them to salad, cereal, yogurt, and oatmeal. My favourites are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries.

Leafy Greens : Poached eggs over spinach and an English muffin is a brunch staple for me (or try this Mediterranean-Inspired Breakfast Sandwich ). Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, chard, and collards, are filled with vitamins A and C, plus iron. If you don’t love salad, use leafy greens in soups, stew, stir-fries or even in our Protein Power Smoothie .

Fish: Did you know that fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and trout have more omega-3 fat compared to white fish? Plus, fish contains vitamin D, which is vital for immune function ( vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection). Bonus: All types of fish are a great source of protein. Try this Souffle-Topped Salmon Bake .

Nuts and seeds : I enjoy snacking on a ¼ cup of mixed nuts and seeds. I like to toss together a Brazil nut and some sunflower seeds for selenium , a mineral that helps regulate immune cell function. I also add almonds and hazelnuts for vitamin E , which helps regulate immune responses. And I sprinkle on some pumpkin, hemp and sesame seeds for zinc , a mineral that helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Now that’s a power snack!

Whole Grains : When grains are refined, they are stripped of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. When possible, chose whole grains instead, such as oats, pot barley, brown rice, and whole grain wheat. Oats and barley are two of my favourites because of their versatility in cooking and baking. They contain immune-supporting nutrients such as selenium and zinc, and also contain a special type of fibre called beta-glucan , which increases immune defense.

Orange Vegetables and Fruits : Squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe and peaches all contain beta-carotene , an antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage and help enhance immune function. One of my favourite ways to load up on “orange” is with this recipes for Harvest Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash .

Now when you get groceries, you have a handy list of foods that contain immune-supporting nutrients.

Margaret Hudson

President, Burnbrae Farms