A strong immune system is the key to staying healthy. As with many aspects of your body and mind, the foods and drinks you consume directly affect your immune system’s performance. Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious immunity-boosting options to enjoy, and many of the ingredients can be sourced locally in Wilmington and the Cape Fear region. Here are five of our favorite recipes to get you started.
By Katie Tajada
1. Oysters (Fried or Fresh)
Oysters are rich in zinc, an essential nutrient that keeps your immune system functioning. That’s great news because North Carolina’s coastline is an ideal place to find them, and Cape Fear oysters in particular are an absolute treat.
Oysters are fantastic whether you’re slurping them down raw on the half shell or dipping fried fritters in cocktail sauce. Just make sure to enjoy them in moderation, as too much zinc can actually reduce immune function, according to WebMD.
Here’s an easy recipe for North Carolina-style crusty fried oysters you can make at home.
● Combine and mix one beaten egg and two tablespoons of cold water
● Place 1-2 cups (less or more as needed) of crushed saltine crackers in a shallow bowl
● Dip oysters into the egg and water mixture
● Roll them in the cracker crumbs
● Fry them in hot vegetable oil for 2 minutes on each side (or until golden brown) Let them rest on paper towels for a few minutes before serving
2. Fruit Smoothies
Many fruits are rich in immune-boosting nutrients and antioxidants, and smoothies are a delicious and nutritious way to consume a variety of fruits. This recipe is formulated specifically for its immunity-boosting properties, but don’t be shy about making it your own. Kiwi and papaya are both fantastic additions.
If you can’t find your favorite fruits locally, you can always stock your fridge with aseptic fruit purees so you can mix up tasty concoctions with ease. Add a portable blender to the mix and you can take your smoothies anywhere, from coastal jogs to sunset adventures on the boat. Splash a little North Carolina gin in the mix for a refreshing cocktail!
● ¾ cup orange juice
● ¼ cup mango and/or papaya
● ½ banana
● ½ teaspoon ginger
● ½ teaspoon cinnamon
● ¼ teaspoon turmeric
● 1 teaspoon chia seeds
● Blend and enjoy
3. Cranberry Almond Microgreen Salad
Like smoothies, salads are endlessly customizable. Dried cranberries, spinach, and almonds are all excellent for your immune system. Add some poppy seeds and toasted sesame seeds for some extra crunch and flavor, some beets for some earthiness, and feel free to cut the spinach (or replace it) with locally grown microgreens for a more delicate taste. Citrus slices, goat cheese, and anything else that sounds good will work too! Don’t overthink it — just fill a bowl and enjoy.
Making tea is so easy, and many types of tea have powerful immunity-boosting properties. While you could grow and dry your own tea if you’re feeling exceptionally ambitious, there are plenty of pre-packaged or loose-leaf specialty tea options available if you want to save yourself the hassle (loose-leaf lets you create custom blends).
Look for black or green teas in particular, as well as these immunity-boosting ingredients:
● Licorice root
To make your immunity-boosting tea, boil water, add your tea, and sip!
5. Veggie Stir Fry
Incorporating more plants into your diet is one of the best ways to keep your immune system happy. What better way to enjoy veggies than in a hearty stir fry? There are so many ways to customize this recipe, so it really comes down to your favorite seasonable vegetables.
Here are some of the best Fall veggies for immune health:
● Red bell pepper
● Bok choy
Making a stir fry is a breeze. Just add oil to the pan and stir/fry the veggies on high heat until desired consistency is achieved. Serve your stir fry over brown rice or quinoa for more immunity-boosting goodness. You can also add poultry or shellfish for a heartier meal.
Don’t Forget the Most Important Part
These five recipes are delectable fuel for your immune system, but we’re not quite done. Last but certainly not least, red wine can actually boost your immune system, so pour a glass of your favorite North Carolina wine and enjoy.