Stealth Health: Sneaking Immune-Boosting Foods into Your Diet

Allison Janse Health Guide
  • While there is no truth to the adage, "Starve a fever, feed a cold," research proves that what you eat can either boost or impair your immunity and help -- or hasten -- your recovery from an illness. This is why, as we enter cold and flu season, many of us are wondering how to get the proper nutrients. The answer may be as simple as adding some stealth health maneuvers to your repertoire -- sneaking nutrient-packed foods into your diet so that every bite counts, instead of having to count every bite.

    Immune-Booster #1: Vitamin C
    Vitamin C increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses. Some of the best sources of vitamin C are oranges, grapefruit, red peppers, mangoes, kiwi, broccoli, and tomatoes. According to Missy Chase Lapine, author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals, it's easy to entice even picky eaters to get dose of vitamin C with her Immune Booster Sorbet. "Most kids (and adults) lose their appetite when they get a cold or the flu, so this cold, sweet, smooth fruit sorbet will go down easy," Chase Lapine explains. "The sorbet is high in vitamin C which may help ward off or shorten the duration of everyday illness, and it can be made in minutes with a food processor or blender."

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    The Sneaky Chef Immune-Booster Sorbet,
    Makes 2 servings

    1 ½ cups frozen strawberries, blueberries, or cherries (without syrup or added sweeteners)

    1/2 cup store-bought pomegranate and/or blueberry juice

    1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

    2 teaspoons sugar or honey, optional

    Put all ingredients in a food processor and puree on high. Hold on tight, the first few seconds are a bit rough until the mixture smoothes out.

    Immune Booster #2: Zinc

    Good food sources of zinc include wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, low-fat yogurt, green peas, and shrimp. Since not all of these are "kid-friendly," Chase Lapine offers these five simple ways to slip zinc-rich foods into your family:

    1. Serve "fortified" breakfast cereal, ideally those that are low-sugar.

    2. Sprinkle wheat germ onto breakfast cereal, oatmeal, in smoothies, and even in meat sauces.

    3. Add parmesan cheese to pasta dishes.

    4. Snack on toasted pumpkin seeds.

    5. Buy zinc-fortified lollipops (use in small amounts and only after a meal to avoid stomach upset).


    Immune-Booster #3: Beta-Carotene
    Beta-carotene helps to prevent infections, fight off disease, and makes cuts heal faster. Rich sources include leafy greens and orange-colored fruits and vegetables.


    Immune Booster #4: Vitamin A
    The top food sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, spinach, cantaloupe, dried apricots, milk, egg yolks, and mozzarella cheese. While even picky eaters will usually go for pizza with mozzarella cheese, Chase Lapine suggests adding pureed or grated carrots and/or sweet potatoes to soups, tomato or pizza sauce; adding pureed or grated carrots to pancake and/or muffin mixes; or making a batch of baked sweet potato French fries.


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    With a little ingenuity and preparation, you can expand your gastronomical horizons while keeping your body healthy. For more information, visit

    Bonus! There's nothing more soothing than a steaming bowl of chicken soup to relieve nasal congestion and the symptoms of a cold or flu. As an added bonus, Chase Lapine's recipe contains a hidden puree of cauliflower and zucchini, both excellent sources of Vitamin C.


    The Sneaky Chef Creamy Chicken Soup,
    Makes about 4 servings

    1 tablespoon butter

    1 tablespoon white flour

    2 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned/boxed (no MSG)

    1/4 cup White Puree (See Sneaky Chef Make Ahead Recipe #4 below)

    1/4 cup dry egg noodles or macaroni

    1 cup diced, cooked chicken meat

    1/4 cup evaporated low-fat milk

    Salt to taste

    Optional extra boost: diced celery, carrots and/or parsnips


    Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and stir constantly for a minute with a wooden spoon (this is a roux, a fancy name for a thickener). Pour in the broth and mix in the dry pasta. If you are adding any optional vegetables, do so at this point. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pasta and vegetables are soft. Stir in the White Puree, cooked chicken, and the evaporated milk, mixing for a minute. Remove from heat and serve.


    The Sneaky Chef's Recipe #4: White Puree

    2 cups cauliflower florets (about 1⁄2 a small head)

    2 small to medium zucchini, peeled and coarsely chopped

    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

    1 to 2 tablespoons water, if necessary

    Makes about 2 cups of puree


    Pour about 2 inches of water into a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Put a vegetable steamer basket into the pot, add the cauliflower, and steam for 10 to 12 minutes or until very tender. Drain. Alternatively, place the cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl, cover the cauliflower with water, and microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes or until very tender. Drain.


    While cauliflower steams, pulse the raw peeled zucchini with the lemon juice (no water at this point) in your food processor. Once the cauliflower is cooked and tender, working in batches if necessary, add 1 tablespoon of water and some of the cauliflower to the food processor with the pulsed zucchini. Puree on high until smooth. Stop occasionally to push the contents to the bottom. If necessary, use another tablespoon of water to smooth out the puree, but the less water, the better.


    This recipe makes about 2 cups of puree; double it if you want to store another 2 cups. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or you can freeze 1⁄4-cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers.



Published On: October 20, 2008