1. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is found in orange-colored foods. The body converts the provitamin (a substance that is converted into a vitamin) into vitamin A, which helps boost the immune system, as well as eye health. It also helps reduce damage from free radicals and keeps the skin healthy — skin is one of the first organs to fight off infection. “Be sure to include the skin [of the sweet potato],” Nadler said. “It’s the richest part of the vegetable when it comes to nutrition.”
2. Butternut squash
Being orange, butternut squash, commonly referred to as a vegetable even though it’s a fruit, is a great source of beta-carotene, according to Nadler. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, which helps support the immune system. As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps fight free radicals in the body and some early research has suggested it may help reduce the risk of some cancers.
Pomegranates have an abundance of antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Juice from the fruit has more than 100 phytochemicals, which are cancer-fighting naturally occurring plant chemicals. Early research has linked chemicals in pomegranate juice to slowing the hardening of the arteries and possibly reducing the risk of developing cancer.
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, commonly referred to as “healthy fat,” Nadler explained. They play an important role in reducing bad cholesterol and keeping the nervous system healthy, she added. The good fat may boost the immune system by enhancing the function of immune B cells, which are key in producing disease-fighting antibodies. Walnuts are also rich in important minerals such as magnesium, manganese, and zinc, and they contain a lot of protein, Nadler added.
You only need a handful of walnuts a day to get all the necessary nutrients, according to Nadler. A whole cup is too much as they are high in calories, she noted.
Even though spinach doesn’t have as much iron as most people think, it’s still a superfood that should be present in one’s diet, Nadler said. It’s high in chlorophyll, which may have anti-cancer and anti-carcinogen effects, Nadler added. Spinach also reduces inflammation and is rich in zinc, which is important for healing wounds.