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5 Immune Boosting Foods to Ward Off Colds/Flus

5 Immunity Boosting Foods
It’s that time of year – the weather’s changing, school’s back in session and people are coming down with runny noses, coughs and sneezes.

While we all know that there is no real cure for the common cold or the flu mainly because there are so many unique viruses that hijack our own cells to spread and reproduce that it’s impossible to keep track of them, boosting our immune system can really help stave off these pesky invaders.

On that note, here are 5 immune boosting foods that have been proven to do just that:

1) Culinary Mushrooms – They may look humble, but mushrooms are ninjas when it comes to boosting your immune system. In fact, like garlic and onions, they have been shown to increase your white blood cell count, due in part to the selenium and glucans they contain. But that’s not all, they have also been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
2) Garlic – While it’s most notoriously known to keep vampires away, garlic also keeps your immune system
running at it’s optimum. It’s the sulfuric compounds like allicin, also found in onions (cabbage, brussel sprouts
and kale), that give garlic it’s pungent odour and are responsible for wiping out bacteria, viruses and fungi. While the most effective way to get garlic’s benefits is to have it raw (2 raw cloves a day can give your immune system the boost it needs),  this is not always very practical! The good news – incorporating garlic into your meals several times a week is also helpful.

Need some inspiration on how to add mushrooms and garlic to your diet? Try out this Garlic Roasted Mushroom Salad.

3) Onions – Loaded with nutrients like quercetin, selenium and allicin, onions don’t just add great flavour to everyday cooking, they also  work hard to ward off invaders like viruses. While there’s no real recommendation on how much you need to eat to boost your immune system, including them in the diet on a daily basis isn’t difficult.

Now, while we all use onions in our cooking, you may also enjoy Pickled Onions.

4) Ginger – is especially good to fight off upper respiratory viruses, which is exactly what you need at this time of year. This is partly due to it’s high manganese content, but it also contains shagaols and gingerols that help open up the sinuses. Because it can cause mild irritation if eaten in excess, you shouldn’t have more than 4g (about a tsp.) of fresh raw ginger a day.
5) Turmeric – this yellow spice that gives curry powder its distinctive color is
loaded with curcumin. Among many other properties like preventing inflammation and oxidative damage, curcumin has immune boosting properties as well.  If you’re not an Indian Food fanatic don’t worry, this mild (almost tasteless) spice can be added to pretty much anything you’re making.

Need some inspiration on how to add turmeric and ginger to your diet? Try out this Glowing Sesame Ginger Turmeric Dressing/Dip.

I’d also venture to say all of these foods together would make the basis for a delicious stir-fry.

Who knew boosting your immune system could be so simple and delicious?

Homemade Granola Bars

With a cold glass of milk, these granola bars make for a perfectly nutritious breakfast – AND THEY’RE SO RIDICULOUSLY EASY TO MAKE!

Considering June 1st has ended up landing on a Friday, which happens to be “Fight Back Friday” for Food Renegades, I thought I might post a quick, easy and nutritious breakfast recipe for those on the go (which is pretty much ALL OF US :))…

To give you a little background on why I thought of sharing this recipe – the three of us are just about to take a 14 hr flight back home tomorrow, as a Skinny Food Addict the hardest part for me is the fact that you really don’t have access to nutritious food whenever your hungry. Another thing I totally don’t like about travel is airplane breakfasts – there’s something really unappealing about steam-table eggs!

So smart as we are (and keeping in mind that we don’t have any stopovers where we’d be asked to hand over our foreign food), we usually pack a bunch of stuff that we can munch on throughout the trip including a few sandwiches, mixed nuts and dried fruit. This year I thought of also taking along a great breakfast – homemade granola bars!

Since I was using toasted wheat flakes, I just had to toast my pumpkin seeds and oat flakes

I actually stumbled upon this great recipe on Eating Well and have made a few adjustments keeping in mind that I really don’t like using too many processed foods (also one of the reasons that I was looking for a substitute for store bought bars :)). I have basically substituted the cooking spray for a pan greased with olive oil, and rather than using a pie pan I prefer to make bars instead. I also feel that you can use whatever combination of nuts/seeds and dried fruit/chocolate chips depending on your personal preferences. The thing I love most about this recipe is the fact that you toast the grain first – I definitely am NOT a big fan of raw grain granola bars (which is my biggest complaint with the Be Natural bars- though they are one of the healthier ones available here in Dubai)

Homemade Granola Bars

Ingredients: 1 cup rolled oats1 cup wheat flakes (since I couldn’t find these @ our grocery store I used Nestle’s FORCE – Traditionally British Toasted Whole Wheat Flakes instead)1 cup seeds or chopped nuts1/2 cup honey (preferably a local honey if possible)1 cup dried fruit or chocolate chips
Directions: Preheat oven to 400°F.Spread oats, wheat flakes and seeds (or nuts) on a baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and starting to brown, about 10 min.Coat a 8″x12″ pan with first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.Cook 1/2 cup honey in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, without stirring, until large foamy bubbles form and it starts to darken at the edges, 2 to 4 min.Immediately turn off stove and pour the toasted oat mixture into the honey, add dried fruit and stir until completely coated.

Quickly press the granola into the prepared pan using a heat-resistant spatula coated with oil. Let cool for 30 min.

Cut into wedges and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (Makes 8 Servings)

Make Ahead Tip: Individually wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

I know it’s challenging to find dried fruit that hasn’t got sulfites added to it, that’s especially true here in Dubai. I was lucky enough to get a hold of craisins by Basse that were sulfite-free and I opted to make my bars with pumpkin seeds this time around. The last time I made a batch of these babies I used semisweet chocolate chips with walnuts which were DELICIOUS!!  I usually have one of these with a glass of milk in the morning for a complete breakfast :)

If you try this recipe out, let me know what you think AND how you made it to suit your taste buds…

Easy Rice Crispy Treats for Halloween

Here’s a quick and simple favorite that both kids and adults will love. No one will ever suspect that these guys are made with wholesome brown rice since they taste so good! You can get the kids involved with whipping this 15 min microwave recipe up; and cutting out Halloween Rice Crispy Treats to decorate is an entertaining party idea. Don’t forget to take a batch into work, your co-workers will love you for it – guaranteed!

What you’ll need:

3 tbsp olive oil

6 cups Nature’s Path Rice Puffs or Enviro Kidz Koala Crisp cereal

10.5 oz bag (300g) mini marshmallows (about 6 cups)

1 cup chopped dried fruit (like cranberries, apricot, pineapple, mango, prunes, dates or raisins), milk or dark chocolate chips

What to do:

In a large microwave safe bowl, add marshmallows to melted butter or olive oil and toss to coat. Microwave the marshmallow mixture for 1-1/2 min. or until your marshmallows are completely melted and the mixture is well blended, stirring after 45 sec. Add your cereal and mix well with an olive oil coated spatula. Add your dried fruit or chocolate chips and stir until they are evenly distributed. Press the mixture onto the bottom of your lightly oiled 10″x13″ pan using your spatula or wet hands and then let them cool completely (takes about 30 min). Once they are cooled, use mini Halloween cookie cutters to cut out halloween shaped treats and Walah! This recipe makes about 40 small ~ 80 kcal treats depending on how closely you cut your shapes.

NOTE: Kids can add eyes and smiles with ready made icing and Halloween candy – so fun! I used chocolate chips and Weetos stuck on with peanut butter for my ghosts. If you have a nut allergy, honey works just as well too.

Pan Fried Okra or Sweet Corn

This is a really simple recipe that is also a great way to get in a tasty vegetable snack during the day. This is one straight from East India and a real comfort food on a cold or rainy day thanks to the red chili, which gives it a warming bite! Chili is also known for its ability to increase your metabolism :)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh or frozen okra, sliced or 1 can kernel corn, drained and rinsed

salt and red chili powder to taste

Preparation:

In a small frying pan, heat oil and saute okra or corn with salt and red chili powder until tender. (Serving size: 1/2 cup)

Okra is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Protein, Niacin, Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese.

Corn is is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Vitamin C, Folate and Manganese.

PS. This one’s for you Sabrina – sorry for the delay in posting more recipes!

Crustless Apple Pie

One of my clients once let me in on a secret of hers – how she enjoyed her fruit as a snack. I have to say I have passed this tip on many times… not to mention enjoyed it myself – this is a great way to enjoy apples and satisfy your sweet tooth as well!

Ingredients:

1 apple, sliced and skinned

sprinkle raw sugar

sprinkle cinnamon

Preparation:

In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients and microwave for 1-2 minutes. Serve with a scoop of low fat icecream or enjoy as is!

*Image by Grant Cochrane | FreeDigitalPhotos.net