Stay Healthy with Immune-Boosting Foods

In the midst of cold and flu season, it’s good to know what we should eat to bolster our immune system. Believe it or not, your digestive tract is a huge part of your immune system. Keeping it balanced with  just the right bacteria mix is essential to staying healthy.

The FoodTrient probiotics in yogurt encourage good gut flora to grow, so eating yogurt every day is a good way to keep your immune defenses strong. Be careful about eating yogurt with sugar, however. Refined sugars, yeast, and alcohol encourage bad bacteria to flourish in your digestive tract. Your best bet is to eat plain yogurt mixed or blended with fresh fruit and nuts. The fruit and nuts will provide the FoodTrient fiber to clean out the intestines.

Most people know that the FoodTrient vitamin C helps your body resist infection, but did you know that it can be found in more than just citrus fruits? Berries and melons are a good source of vitamin C. So are dark green leafy veggies, bell peppers, and chili peppers. Another FoodTrient, vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, and butter, also boosts immunity. So a spinach salad with tangerines and sunflower seeds will punch up your body’s defenses. As will a plate of fajitas with citrus-marinated chicken, jalapeños, and sautéed bell peppers. Be sure to put onions on those fajitas because they contain quercetin—another FoodTrient that supports your body’s natural defenses.

Quercetin is also found in the skins of apples and pears, in broccoli, citrus fruits, kale, and chia seeds. My Pear and Apple Tart recipe is a boon to your immune system, thanks to the quercetin in the fruit, the vitamin E in the butter and pecans, and the vitamin C in the lemon juice. Have a cup of coffee with a slice of my tart because the polyphenols in coffee can improve your immune function, too. Immune-building polyphenols are found in beer, pomegranates, berries and olive oil.

Zinc is a FoodTrient found in beef, cheese, shellfish, sardines, and nuts. It not only helps you stave off the flu, it also helps shorten colds and keeps your skin beautiful at the same time. Zinc maintains collagen—the main protein in connective tissue —and elastin, which helps your skin bounce back after being stretched. Carotenoids, another FoodTrient, can also protect your health during cold and flu season. They occur in yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, squashes, and sweet potatoes. Orange and yellow fruits such as apricots, mangos, papayas, and peaches have carotenoids, too.

Selenium is one more FoodTrient that will help you be less susceptible to germs. It’s found in Brazil nuts, liver, mushrooms, shellfish, and poultry. My Asian Chicken Salad can boost your immunity thanks to it, and to the zinc in the peanuts, the carotenoids in the mangos, and the vitamin C in the chili sauce. Here’s the recipe.

Asian Chicken Salad
This is my version of Chinese chicken salad, but instead of Mandarin oranges, I use mangoes. The base of the dressing is a bottled sweet chili sauce. The crispy noodles aren’t too healthy but can be used in moderation. I like to fry the peanuts in corn oil, but if you can’t find raw peanuts, you can use roasted peanuts and just toss them in at the end.

1 cup raw peanuts, separated into halves
¼cup corn oil
½ cup sweet chili sauce (your favorite brand)
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1–2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage (white part only)
½ cup shredded red cabbage
½ cup minced cilantro leaves
⅓ cup minced chives
3 cups diced roasted chicken
1 cup diced mango
2 Tbsp. roasted sesame seeds
½ cup La Choy crispy noodles (optional)

1. Fry the raw peanuts in the corn oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet for 5–7 minutes, or until golden brown.
2. In a small bowl, make the dressing by mixing the sweet chili sauce, lime juice, and sesame oil.
3. In a large salad bowl, toss the cabbage, cilantro, and chives with half of the dressing.
4. Fold in the peanuts, chicken, and mango.
5. Garnish with sesame seeds and crispy noodles. Serve with remaining dressing.
Serves 4


About Grace O

Grace O has been cooking and baking professionally and recreationally all of her adult life. As a child in Southeast Asia, she learned the culinary arts by her mother’s side in her family’s cooking school. She became so well versed in hospitality and the culinary arts, she eventually took over the cooking school and opened three restaurants. She is widely credited with popularizing shrimp on sugar-cane skewers and being one of the first culinarians to make tapas a global trend. She has cooked for ruling families and royalty. Grace O’s move to America precipitated a career in healthcare, inspired by her father, who was a physician. Twenty years and much hard work later, she operates skilled nursing facilities in California. Grace O strives to create flavorful food using the finest ingredients that ultimately lead to good health. Her recipes, although low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, are high in flavor. Grace employs spices from all over the world to enliven her dishes, creating food that is different and delicious. She believes that food can be just as effective at fighting aging as the most expensive skin creams. And since she’s over 50 herself, she’s living proof of that.
What Do FoodTrients Do?
anti-inflamatory Anti-Inflammatory

Reduces inflammation process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.

anti-oxidant Anti- oxidant

Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.

immunity-booster Immunity Boosters

Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.

mind Mind

Enhancers encourage vibrant skin and hair and improve mood and mental agility.

disease-preventing Disease Prevention

Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.