Winter is coming ya’ll – or it feels like it’s already here if I’m honest (when did that happen!?). And unfortunately, often these colder snaps bring those nasty sicknesses with them (no thanks). Aside from the conventional methods like washing your hands, getting immunized, avoiding contact with people who are unwell, or even wearing masks…there are other lifestyle factors that can influence the strength of our immune system. The way that we eat can drastically improve our immune defences and keep us healthy and well as we dive head-first into the cold (or if you hate winter like me, are forcibly pushed into it).
Essentially, the eating regime that our immunity begs for is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You will find these in fruits and vegetables of a wide range of colours (just another reason to eat the rainbow). The nutrients in particular that should be prioritized are vitamins C & E, beta-carotene, zinc, and vitamin D.
Vitamins C & E are antioxidants that assist in fighting the free radicals that threaten our immune system. Find your vitamin E in dark leafy greens, broccoli, nuts, and seeds. Vitamin C can be sourced through citrus like oranges and lemons, strawberries, red capsicum, and mangoes.
Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant, that promotes the production of disease-fighting cells and reduces inflammation. This powerhouse nutrient can be found primarily in carrots, sweet potato (orange soup, anyone?) and leafy greens.
Zinc supports and promotes the normal development and functioning of our cells that conciliate natural immunity. Great sources of zinc are nuts and seeds, as well as legumes, eggs and wholegrains.
Vitamin D is known to assist in regulating innate immunity by ensuring our immune responses are adaptive. Specifically, it plays a vital role in fighting respiratory illnesses by inhibiting the production of inflammatory compounds. Find your vitamin D fortified in cereals, dairy products and up in the sky (keep warm AND get vitamin D – win win).
Our top foods
Based on the required nutrients for immune support we’ve curated a short list of our top foods for immunity and how to use them.
- Red capsicum
Packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, this versatile vegetable is a great immunity booster. It can be eaten cooked or fresh, chucked through salads, in curries, dipped in hummus or blended through soup.
This superfood yields low energy and masses of nutrients. Boasting vitamin C, E and A, it is the ultimate flu-fighter. It can also be enjoyed cooked or fresh, in stir-fries, steamed on its own or tossed through salads.
All the more reason to put in way more garlic than the recipe says (we all do that anyway, right?). Garlic contains allicin, which contains antimicrobial properties that can fight pathogens. Enjoy roasted whole (thank me later), or honestly in pretty much any other savoury meal ever (in my opinion anyway).
A natural cold and flu tablet – ginger contains anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds which can help fight illness. Brew in a hot pot of herbal tea with some lemon and honey to sooth your throat and soul.
Another low-energy big-nutrient green vege. Maximise nutrient absorption by eating spinach raw where possible, however light cooking can also release vitamin-A. Use in salads, smoothies and sandwiches raw, or add to hot meals.
- Berries and citrus
I’m surprised you can’t actually see the vitamin C in these fruits. Need I say more? Enjoy on their own, in smoothies or tossed through salads.