healthy foods

Holiday Foods To Boost Immune System

As we head into the holiday season, it is more important than ever to be mindful about what we eat. Before you finalize your holiday menu, try adding nutritious foods and give your immune system a boost. In this week’s Fox 17 segment, Dr. Bitner reminds us to focus on food as medicine, not a distraction.

Fact #1: 

Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E are critical for immune system function. Deficiencies can result in an increased risk of common illnesses, including the common cold, flu, COVID-19, and bacterial infections such as sinus infections and strep throat. It is always best to start with food as a source of these vitamins. Luckily, common holiday foods can serve as sources! Turkey provides Vitamins A and B, cranberries, citrus, and potatoes serve as a source of Vitamin C, and leafy green vegetables such as romaine lettuce, broccoli, and brussels sprouts are sources of Vitamins A, C, and E. Carrots are also a source of Vitamin A and nuts are a great source of Vitamin E. It is important to note that an adequate amount of Vitamin D is only possible in an average diet with supplementation.

Fact #2:

Minerals are also crucial to our immune system. Insufficient quantities can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to colds, pneumonia, and various seasonal illnesses. Essential minerals include selenium, zinc, copper, iodine, and iron. For example, T-cells and Natural Killer cells, necessary in fighting viruses and bacteria, require selenium. Selenium is present in Brazil nuts, seafood, and meat. Lymphocyte production relies on zinc, which is also present in nuts, seafood, whole grains, and meat. Zinc lozenges can help prevent the adherence of common cold virus molecules to the inner skin of the nose.

Patient Story: 

Jane loved to cook and was looking forward to hosting Thanksgiving. She wanted to make a memorable meal with everyone’s favorites and, at the same time, have it be as healthy as possible. Jane was glad to learn her favorite dishes are a good source of nutrients to keep her family and friends healthy. She identified modifications that would enhance its nutritional value. While keeping the turkey unchanged, she opted for whole grain bread in her stuffing instead of white and ensured the inclusion of sweet potatoes with pecans alongside white potatoes. She chose to cook her cranberries and make sure to add orange peel as a good source of Vitamin C. In addition to the green bean casserole, she would make roasted carrots and brussels sprouts as a source of Vitamins A, B12, C, and E. Mac-n-cheese would have whole wheat pasta. Her pumpkin bread would provide Vitamins A, B, C, and copper. She would also make her sweet potato pie using whole wheat pastry flour, turning the crust into a source of B and C Vitamins and a healthy dose of fiber.

Health Tip of the Week: 

The traditional holiday meal is an excellent source of nutrients to keep the immune system healthy. In addition to getting extra sleep and long walks outside over the holiday weekend, think of adding food with bright colors no matter your tradition and use whole grains and pasta when possible. Remember, food is medicine!


Watch the full segment.