When people think of warding off disease, hand washing, social distancing and wearing a protective facial covering are typically some of the first things to come to mind. But there’s a sneakier factor that most people don’t take notice of. When building your immunity arsenal, keep in mind that a high percentage of your risk for contracting infectious diseases, and the risk for developing severe disease, is directly linked to your inflammation levels.
While acute inflammation is short-lived and generally seen as healthy — think of the itch you feel after a mosquito bite or the scab that develops after you cut yourself — chronic inflammation is a lingering state that can develop when the immune system either fails to eradicate the issue (like during continued exposure to food or environmental allergens) or continues to stay active despite the threat being removed (like a cough that lingers weeks after getting over the flu). Thanks in part to overactive white blood cells, the body literally attacks itself during chronic inflammatory processes. Even at low levels, this plays a crucial role in almost all disease progression. Luckily, inflammation can be directly impacted by what you eat.
Ginger Hultin MS RDN, a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of virtual wellness consulting practice Champagne Nutrition, explains that “proper nutrition can help the body calm down and heal. A variety of vitamins and minerals, good fats and antioxidants all send calming signals to the body and help to restore normal function.”
At Champagne Nutrition, Hultin coaches clients all over the U.S. on how to improve their lives via changes in their diet. Since everyone’s body is different, this requires a tailored approach. “We work on general health, as well as health mysteries like hormonal issues, breathing problems and even the side-effects of cancer treatments,” she said. Her goal is to leave clients “happier and healthier than when we first met,” and to help them stay committed to their new lifestyle. She also runs a blog, full of recipes and wellness advice.
Hultin is the author of best-selling cookbooks, Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep and How to Eat to Beat Disease Cookbook. Her inspiration for writing the cookbooks was to simplify cooking while helping people to reduce pain and lead healthier lives. For those unfamiliar with meal-prep, the premise is to make your meals for the week ahead of time, so that when the stress of work, travel or dealing with your child’s schedule kicks in you already have healthy meals ready to grab. So, all of the recipes in the cookbook make between three and six servings, but can easily be adjusted to make smaller portions.
Here are three recipes from Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep for a delicious, easy-to-prep, immune-boosting meal:
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
- 8 oz frozen shelled edamame
- ¼ cup tahini
- Juice of large lemon
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 2 to 4 Tbsp water
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- Microwave the frozen edamame for two to three minutes, or per package instructions.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the edamame, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cumin and two tablespoons of water. Puree the mixture until it’s smooth, if it needs more liquids, add up to two more tablespoons of water, one tablespoon at a time. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil one tablespoon at a time, blending well to incorporate after each addition.
- Pour the hummus into five small storage containers.
Storage: Store in the refrigerator for up to seven days, or freeze for up to three months. If frozen, thaw a container of the hummus in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
Vegan Tempeh Tacos
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 1 8 oz package tempeh
- 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium ripe tomato, chopped
- 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 cup salsa
- 8 hard or soft taco shells
- Crumble the tempeh in a medium sized mixing bowl and add the beans and spices. Mix well, adding water as needed if the mixture is dry (about 1/4 cup).
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add in the garlic. Sauté for one minute, until fragrant.
- Add in the tempeh/black bean mixture, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, adding water if needed for texture (about 1/4 cup as needed).
- Taste and season to taste. Serve the tempeh tacos with chopped tomato, green cabbage, salsa and any other topping you enjoy over hard or soft shells of your choice.
Easy Black Bean Brownies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Stand Mixer
- 1 tsp coconut oil for greasing the pan
- 3/4 cup canned beans rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil try avocado or grapeseed oil
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar for dusting as a garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 9-inch square baking pan.
- In a blender, puree the beans with the oil until it’s smooth.
- In the bowl of a mixer, add the bean mix, eggs, cocoa, sugar and vanilla. Mix on medium-high until smooth or about 15 to 30 seconds.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips. Add it to the mixer and mix until incorporated or another 15 to 30 seconds.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the surface is matte around the edges and still shiny in the middle, about 30 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting and removing from the pan. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
All recipes are from Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep, and courtesy of Ginger Hultin.