As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be changing your lifestyle to support your immune system. Although no single food or nutrient is the magic answer, incorporating certain nutrients into a well-balanced diet can help. We’ve already covered vitamin C and vitamin D, and now we’re moving on to beta-carotene (β-carotene)!
When you eat β-carotene, your body turns it into vitamin A, which is essential for proper immune function. Vitamin A helps create disease-fighting white blood cells and maintain other cells inside the body that defend against infection. β-carotene and vitamin A are also powerful antioxidants that help reduce the risk of disease by protecting cells from damage.
To include sources of β-carotene in your daily life, eat leafy green vegetables, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and red and yellow peppers. Here are some great recipes featuring these foods for you to try at home.
Offer your family a refreshing dessert by turning cantaloupe into a frozen Italian treat.
½ ripe cantaloupe
¾ cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
Step 1: On a cutting board, cut the cantaloupe into cubes. Juice the lemon.
Step 2: In a saucepot over medium-high heat, combine the water and sugar. Boil the mixture until all the sugar is dissolved.
Step 3: In a blender, combine the simple syrup with cantaloupe. Puree the mixture. Add the lemon juice and blend until combined.
Step 4: Pour the mixture into a shallow pan so there’s about ½ inch left from the top.
Step 5: Place the pan, uncovered, on a level freezer shelf. Return every 35 to 45 minutes to scrape the mixture, until you break it up and form large ice flakes.
Step 6: Let it freeze for another 30 minutes. Fluff the granita again with a fork. Keep doing this until all the granita is frozen and you have what looks like shaved ice.
Harissa Carrots with Yogurt and Pepitas
Try these carrots as a snack or side dish — the hot Tunisian chili pepper paste contrasts with the cool yogurt-and-dill dressing.
1 pound baby carrots with 1-inch tops
3 tablespoons harissa paste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons plain nonfat Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon freshly chopped dill
2 teaspoons pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Step 2: On a cutting board, cut the carrots in half lengthwise. In a microwave-safe dish, add the carrots and a bit of water and steam for 4 minutes in your microwave.
Step 3: In a bowl, combine the harissa paste, oil, maple syrup, and kosher salt. Mix well. Add the carrots to the bowl, tossing until they’re evenly coated in the mixture.
Step 4: Transfer the carrots to a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, stir once, then continue to check every 5 minutes until the carrots are lightly charred and browned.
Step 5: Combine the yogurt and dill.
Step 6: Place the carrots in a serving dish and drizzle with the yogurt mixture. Garnish with the pumpkin seeds.
Cajun Kale Chips
Add a kick to fresh kale in this seasoned, crispy snack.
1 ½ pounds kale
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 395°F.
Step 2: On a cutting board, remove the stems from the kale. Chop the leaves into 4-inch bite-size pieces.
Step 3: In a bowl, mix the vegetable oil, Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add the kale pieces to the bowl and gently coat with the oil-spice mixture. Lay the kale evenly on a baking sheet.
Step 4: Bake for 1 ½ hours, checking on the kale every 30 minutes to prevent overcooking.
Step 5: The kale is done when crispy. Let the chips cool at room temperature before serving.
Sautéed Collard Greens
Bring extra flavor to collard greens with minced garlic and a touch of balsamic vinegar in this side dish.
2 pounds collard greens
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Step 1: On a cutting board, remove the stems from the collard greens. Wash and drain the greens properly. Mince the garlic cloves. Set aside.
Step 2: Stack the collard greens on top of one another, roll them up, then thinly slice them into ⅛-inch ribbons.
Step 3: In a skillet over high heat, add the vegetable oil, then the collard greens. Stir frequently.
Step 4: Once the collard greens have cooked down for a few minutes, add the garlic and stir. Continue to cook until the garlic is fragrant.
Step 5: Add the balsamic vinegar. Stir well.
Step 6: Transfer the sautéed greens to a dish. Serve warm.
Chef’s tip: These aren’t the typical long-simmered collard greens. The greens should still be firm and a bright color.