Our immune system often takes a knock in winter as it wages war on a multitude of cold and flu bugs. The good news is, that by eating the right foods, we can do our bit to keep it in good shape. Here are six common foods that pack an immune-boosting punch.
Used for its medicinal properties since the days of the Egyptian pharaohs, and a favourite in kitchens around the world, garlic should be top of your list when it comes to keeping the winter nasties at bay.
How does it boost your immunity? Garlic contains calcium, potassium and sulfur-containing compounds which have been shown to fight infection and bacteria.
How can you get more of it into your diet? While garlic is at its immune-boosting best in its raw form, it can be pretty overpowering (not to mention smelly!) eating it this way. If the idea of slicing a clove into pill-sized portions and swallowing them with water leaves a bad taste in your mouth, try adding chopped garlic to homemade pesto and salad dressing – both are delicious drizzled over roasted veg in winter – or mixing it into butter and spreading it on toast.
Whether you prefer yours with breakfast, lunch or supper – or all three – evidence suggests that a yoghurt a day really might keep the doctor away.
How does it boost your immunity? The probiotics or good bacteria in yoghurt are vital to good gut health, which is thought to improve immunity among several other benefits.
How can you get more of it into your diet? It's important, when choosing yoghurt, to look for the words 'live and active cultures' on the packaging as these are the key to boosting your immunity. Then, other than enjoying your favourite flavour with a spoon, add natural or Greek yoghurt to fruit and muesli, smoothies, salad dressings and marinades or use as a dip for fresh or roasted veggies.
Portobello, button, chanterelle, oyster, cremini… there's a mushroom for almost every dish. But if it's an immune boost you're after, stick to maitake, shiitake and reishi mushrooms for the best results.
How do they boost your immunity? Mushrooms are an excellent source of two minerals – selenium and zinc – which play an important role in strengthening the immune system.
How can you get more of it into your diet? There are (almost) a million ways to include this versatile veg in your diet, including in its raw form. Chopped, sautéed, stuffed, baked or stir fried, they're delicious and nutritious. Health warning: Some species of wild mushrooms are highly poisonous, so never eat them unless you're absolutely sure they're harmless!
While most of us enjoy a cup of tea for its warming and soothing properties, it may well be time we sipped it for its immune-boosting potential, too.
How does it boost your immunity? Tea contains polyphenols and flavonoids which fight disease by eliminating free radicals in the body.
How can you get more of it into your diet? Simple - put the kettle on and enjoy a cuppa! But a word of caution: As white, green and black tea all contain caffeine (green and white have significantly lower levels), don't overdo your daily tea tally or you may find it difficult to fall asleep at night. Alternatively, opt for herbal tea which has just as many immune-boosting properties such as such a ginger & lemongrass, peppermint, lemon balm and rooibos.
This leafy green veg is off the charts in terms of nutrition – it's packed with vitamins and minerals, fibre and protein – and ridiculously low in calories, so make it a regular on your shopping list.
How does it boost your immunity? Spinach is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which boost the body's ability to fight infection.
How can you get more of it into your diet? Spinach is delicious whether it's raw – think salads, smoothies and pesto – or lightly cooked – wilt it in a pan and top with parmesan cheese or add it to stews, veggie burgers, and omelettes.
When it comes to green veg, it doesn't get much healthier than broccoli. So mums, keep encouraging your little ones to finish theirs!
How does it boost your immunity? Broccoli is bursting with vitamin C and antioxidants, making it a must for a healthy immune system.
How can you get more of it into your diet? Wonderfully versatile, broccoli can be served as a side with tangy cheese sauce, used in warm winter soups, roast veg salads and frittatas, or covered in tempura batter.
Keen to book a session with our resident nutritionist Mogestri Pather to discuss how you can keep your immune system functioning optimally? Or just looking for some good nutritional advice? Get in touch with her on 0414 650 515 or firstname.lastname@example.org