A typical Western diet is high in excess sugars, salts and fats; and it is often low in heart-healthy nutrients -- a scenario which can pack on the pounds, heighten inflammation and increase heart-disease risk. A highly sugared diet does little to help a cold and may exacerbate bacterial infections that can follow, including sinusitis. Cook for healthy healing by shifting your focus from highly processed convenience foods to plant-based foods and healthier cooking techniques.
Buy pre-chopped fresh vegetables or rinse and chop them yourself. Seal them in a bag or container and store them in the refrigerator for quick, easy access. Include cruciferous produce, such as folate-rich broccoli, and a variety of pigmented vegetables including carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and bell peppers to increase your levels of immune-enhancing vitamins A and C. Don't forget antioxidant-rich leafy greens such as kale and spinach -- good sources of antibody-boosting vitamin E.
Stock your pantry with healing aromatics, herbs and spices. Onions, for example, contain a mix of sulfur, vitamins C and B and a host of flavonoids, which makes the vegetable a great antibacterial and antiviral remedy. Turmeric, a curry staple and a great way to season fish and lentils, contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, artery-protective properties. Fennel, ginger and mint add intensity and flavor to your dishes while aiding digestion.
Roast, bake or saute your food with a minimal amount of heart-healthy fats to help your body absorb important nutrients such as vitamins A, E, D and K. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can seal in flavor and keep your favorite dishes moist. Coconut oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal properties. It can balance out the pungent flavors in arugula and kale.
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology: The Effects of Diet on Inflammation: Emphasis on the Metabolic Syndrome
- American Institute of Cancer Research: Broccoli and Cruciferous Vegetables
- Fruit & Veggies More Matters: Vegetable Nutrition Database
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin E
- Internet FAQ Archives: Fortifying Foods
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
- Starwest Botanicals: Improving Digestive Health with Carmitive Herbs
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose
- Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine: Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): In Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
- Spice Advice: Adding Spices and Herbs to Food
- Local Harvest: What Herbs Go with What Foods
- Livestrong.com: Do Vegetables Loose Their Nutrients When Boiled?
- ifood.tv: How to Store Chopped Vegetables and Zip Along with Your Daily Chores
- Fred Huchinson Cancer Research Center: Study Finds Eating Deep-Fried Food is Associated with an Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer
- American Institute for Cancer Research: The Grilling Question
- Choose baking, steaming, roasting and lightly sautéing over frying, deep-frying and barbecue-charring to avoid carcinogenic toxins from forming.
- Limit the amount of oil in your recipe to 1 to 2 teaspoons per serving when using a stovetop pan. Lightly brush oil on your vegetables and lean proteins before roasting or baking. Olive oil works well for most cooking methods. Coconut oil, which is generally stored in a solid state, is great for lightly sauteíng.
- Add a sprinkling of nuts, oven toasted or raw, to your final stage of preparation to enliven salads, green beans and sauteed leafy greens. Use just 1 to 2 tablespoons, since they are concentrated in fat and calories. A little can go a long way if you chop them finely and distribute well.
- Steam your vegetables, but add a little oil to boost the flavor.
- Do not overcook your vegetables, as they can lose flavor and visual appeal as well as important nutrients.
- Watch your fat intake, as protein and starch dishes may be cooked with some oil, and if you include a salad, the dressing on it can certainly add to your fat intake.
Dorothy Lauren O’Connor is a registered dietitian. She is the author of "You and Your Blood Pressure: Beating Out Hypertension," co-author of "10 Pounds Down Weight-Loss Meal Plan" and a contributor to "Thin In 10." O’Connor holds a master's degree in nutritional science from California State University, Los Angeles, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.