As we say goodbye to another summer and start preparing for the cooler months ahead we need to stay on top of our health. As the weather gets cooler, more people are inside and germs are spread more easily. Meaning sniffles, colds and the flu are more easily spread. You can support a tip-top immune system and minimise your chances of getting sick by including these top immune-boosting foods into your diet.
Fresh garlic has potent antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal qualities – it’s chief agent allicin (a sulphur-containing compound) when digested in the gut seeks out and reacts with dangerous free-radicals. Basically targeting pesky bacteria and germs that shouldn’t be there! Garlic must be consumed fresh (and crushed or chopped) to have this potent activity. How to eat it – add to fresh juices or dice up mix with olive oil and eat with half an avocado!
The citrus family has long been hailed as immune boosting due to the high content of vitamin C in these fruits. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralise free radicals. While it definitely plays a role in controlling infections there is no evidence that mega doses of vitamin C prevent colds and flus. Ensure a healthy intake of vitamin C through the diet but skip the mega-dose supplements. Vitamin C is found in plenty of fruits and vegetables – think citrus, fruits, dark leafy greens and berries – eat daily!
To have a healthy immune system you have to have a healthy gut! That means having a healthy ratio of good to bad bacteria to ensure optimal gut and immune function. Probiotics can modulate immune responses as they have an anti-inflammatory effect (basically they can reduce the production of inflammatory bacteria). Ensuring a daily intake of probiotic foods – think yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha and kefir to ensure a happy and healthy gut.
Chicken soup can be just what the doctor ordered when you are feeling a little run down. A homemade chicken broth, filled with veggies and herbs is nourishing and immune boosting. How? Chicken broth (made from real chicken bones) contains B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and zinc – all great immune boosting nutrients. Fresh herbs such as thyme and oregano contain essential oils that are anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Ginger and garlic are both powerful anti-inflammatories and immune –boosting spices. Hot soup helps to thin out mucus when you are sick which can help the body fight infection. Soup is also hydrating and provides electrolyte minerals; remember when you are sick you can get dehydrated easily – especially when you are running a fever.
It’s easy to forget to drink enough water as the weather cools but being optimally hydrated is a must to ensure a strong immune system. Water supports the blood to carry plenty of oxygen to your cells, ensuring optimal functioning of all organs and muscles. Water also supports your kidneys to remove toxins from your body and aids the production of lymph, which circulates white blood cells and nutrients to all your body’s tissues.
Supplements are marketed like crazy at this time of year – Echinacea, olive leaf extract, vitamin c etc and while they can minimise the severity of cold and flu symptoms there is no evidence to back up claims that they can prevent colds and flu in general. Your best bet is to ensure a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables (to cover a whole spectrum of necessary vitamin and minerals), lean meats for your protein needs, fermented foods, and optimal hydration.