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From Our Dietitians: Immune-Supportive Recipes with Zinc

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As we all navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that washing hands, physical distancing, and wearing masks to cover the nose and mouth are of highest importance. You might also be making changes to support and strengthen your immune system. By itself, one food or nutrient won’t protect against illness, but eating a balanced diet with specific nutrients can help. We started with vitamin C, vitamin D, and beta-carotene, and zinc is up next.

Zinc helps protect the body from infection by building a type of white blood cell, T lymphocyte. Zinc is also necessary for the body’s overall growth and development, recovery from wounds, and ability to taste and smell. Zinc occurs naturally in some foods (e.g., oysters, beef, crab, lobster, chicken, and beans) and also gets added to certain fortified foods (e.g., breakfast cereal).

Check out these recipes highlighting foods with zinc.

Baked Maryland Crab Cakes

Serve these golden-brown crab cakes as a meal starter or with a salad.

Servings: 6


1 ¼ pounds crab meat
5 slices white bread
1 egg
½ lemon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
4 ½ tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon OLD BAY® Seasoning
1 ¾ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce


Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Step 2: In a strainer, drain the crab meat. On a cutting board, remove the crust from the bread. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg. Zest and juice the lemon, adding the zest and juice to the mixing bowl. Set these ingredients aside.

Step 3: In a food processor, add the bread. Pulse to create crumbs. Don’t overprocess — if you do, the bread will clump together and form a paste.

Step 4: Transfer the crab meat from the strainer to a large bowl. Pour the breadcrumbs over the crab. Set the bowl aside.

Step 5: In the bowl with egg and lemon, add the parsley, mayonnaise, OLD BAY® and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well, until the liquid looks like a loose pancake batter.

Step 6: Add ¾ of the liquid to the bowl with crab and breadcrumbs. Gently fold to combine, being careful not to break up the clumps of crab meat. Add more liquid if the mixture is too dry.

Step 7: Divide the mixture into six even amounts, form them into crab cakes, and place them in a baking dish.

Step 8: Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the crab cakes are browned and crispy on the outside.


Southwestern Bean and Avocado Salad

This fresh salad pairs well with grilled or smoked meats or seafood.

Servings: 6


2 tablespoons lime juice
2 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
15 ounces canned, drained, and rinsed black beans
¼ cup thawed frozen corn kernels
½ cup diced red pepper
⅓ cup diced fresh tomato
¼ cup minced scallion
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
¾ cup diced avocado


Step 1: In a bowl, add all the ingredients except the avocado. Mix well.

Step 2: Cover and chill the salad in your refrigerator until ready to serve.

Step 3: Add the avocado at the last minute and lightly fold it in to keep it from breaking up.


Tuscan White Bean Soup

Warm up with this silky and rich soup, either as a side dish or an entrée with crusty bread for dipping.

Servings: 6


1 cup diced leek
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup peeled, diced parsnip
½ cup trimmed, diced celery
1 cup julienned fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
15 ounces canned cannellini beans
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme


Step 1: In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, add the oil, parsnip and celery. Sauté until translucent.

Step 2: Add the mushrooms and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes.

Step 3: Add the beans, broth, rosemary, and thyme. Bring the soup to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Step 4: Remove the pot from the heat. Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender to puree until smooth.

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