It is flu-season. Our days are short and our nights are cold and long. We feel like hibernating and most of us are struck down by one or the other head cold or sniffle. We simply don’t quite feel like our usual summery vibrant self. Giving your immune system a healthy-licious boost, however, is easier than you might think and can be totally non-invasive and drug-free. You can take back control of your radiant, feel-good self simply by choosing to nourish your precious body with wholesome foods that give your immunity and overall health and well-being a powerful uplift.
- Fermented and prebiotic foods
Since 70 % of our immunity is actually housed within our gut, it makes sense to give your digestive system some extra love if it is your goal is to safeguard yourself from any ill-being and put a new vigorous spring in your step. One way to nurture your vulnerable gastrointestinal tract is by adding beneficial live cultures in the form of fermented foods into your diet. These could range from kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh to probiotic yoghurt. Your options are plentiful and by doing so you are not only upping the wow-factor in terms of diversity and deliciousness onto your plate but are also keeping any harmful microorganisms well in check. In addition to going live with healthful microbes, you and your happy belly will greatly benefit from feeding it with types of fibre that will help your friendly gut bacteria to increase ensuring they outbalance those harmful ones. My favourite, healthy-licious prebiotics include oats, barely, bananas, apples, seaweed, onion, dandelion greens, raw asparagus or chicory. But there are heaps more for you to discover and experiment with.
- Citrus fruits and those high in vitamin C
Nourishing yourself with foods that are particularly high in vitamin C throughout those cold winter months is definitely a clever move as far as your immunity is concerned. Vitamin C has very powerful antioxidant properties which fight radical damage and thus prevent your cells from breaking down. So, next shop you might want to go crazy on oranges, grapefruits, kiwi fruits, mandarins, bell peppers, broccoli, parsley, lemons, paw paws and strawberries. Extra benefit of a menu plan that is bursting full of vitamin C rich foods: not only your general wellbeing but also that of your skin will be elevated to new firm, elastic highs since vitamin C is needed for the production of collagen. Yes, good health is super sexy!
- Brightly yellow, orange and red coloured fruits and vegetables
Piling up your plate with all your happy summer colours, does not only lift your mood but also gives you a wonderful dose of vitamin A which is one of the omnipotent micronutrients that will equip your inner defence team of battling soldiers with strong, unbeatable muscles and shields. Sorry, not sorry – common cold virus, you are simply no adequate match for the empowered brightly coloured food eaters like us anymore. Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, lemons, squashes, carrots, ginger, tomatoes, red bell peppers, peaches, dried apricots and mangoes….we love and happily digest you all!!!
- Nuts and seeds
They may be small but don’t let yourself be fooled by their size: nuts and seeds are total powerhouses. They are brim full with health-boosting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthful fats. All of these, you might have guessed it, have potent roles to play when it comes to improving your bodies very own defences. My favourites are: walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds which I cherish for their magnificent omega-3 fatty acids; almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds which have the vitamin E factor; as well as pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, pecans, brazil nuts and hemp seeds which are loaded with zinc. I am sure you will agree that it cannot get any easier or more delicious than adding a handful of nuts or seeds to your breakfast-, lunch- or dinner bowl or enjoy your flu-defying handful as a yummy-licious snack in between.
This almighty root vegetable does not only have very strong antioxidant properties but it is also anti-microbial and as such efficiently and without much further ado kills all kinds of bacteria. As if this was not enough to make it your favourite winter accessory, ginger is also a natural antibiotic, and contains anti-inflammatory agents. It is maybe not as versatile and easily added to your menu plan as your colourful fruit and veg or nuts but once you get the hang of where and how to include in your cooking, you don’t want to miss it anymore ever. I really love its taste in any form of stir fry or Asian dish. And my favourite winter-ginger-go-to-saviour will have to be hot lemon water with a knob of the grated root goodness, yum!
This somewhat smelly root vegetable contains the sulphur compound Allicin which is not only responsible for the strong distinct odour of the plant but which also equips it with its secret power to turbo-boost some of your disease-fighting white blood cells. So, yes, your humble garlic can wipe out bacteria and infection especially if consumed raw since cooking or drying inactivates those magic sulphur compounds thereby reducing its antibiotic effects. Garlic is probably the least sociable food of all for very stinky reasons. However, the answer to this solitude issue is hosting a dinner party for your friends and cooking up a storm of healthful garlic. Smelling together bonds.
This yellow root vegetable has enjoyed a great deal of popularity within the last few years, which is fabu-licious news because it is another one of those totally natural superstars when it comes to upping your innate defences against viruses and disease. Similar to ginger and garlic, turmeric, or rather its active compound, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and strong anti-oxidant properties and thus supercharges your white blood cell count. There is a tiny downside to all of this turbo-boosting-immunity awesomeness. Curcumin is not very easily absorbed by us humans and therefore needs some help in the form of other ingredients such as black pepper to increase its bioavailability and our healthful awesomeness.
- High protein foods
Since your immune system is made up of proteins and relies on the synthesis of amino acids as building blocks, it is a no brainer that eating a diet that contains ample amounts of high protein foods will set the grounds for a strong defence system. To maintain a healthy protein balance, I like to make sure I include some healthful nitrogenous matter with every meal such as beans, legumes, eggs, tofu and other soy products, seafood, peas or nuts. In addition to supercharging your health, eating a diet that includes sufficient amounts of this cell building material, will also help you to naturally regulate your appetite and downsize your waist line by keeping you full for longer.
- Fatty fish
Has two superpowers: For one, it contains very potent omega-3 fatty acids that are very capable of controlling inflammatory responses. In addition to nipping any form of infection in the bud, they do also increase our white blood count. This means: more little soldier cells are activated and stimulated to protect your precious body against viruses, bacteria and other less healthful cell abnormalities. Secondly, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines can also boost your levels of the sunshine vitamin. During the darker season of the year, where we might be blessed with more rainy days and cool grey skies and less sun, we are more at risk to run low on vitamin D. A deficiency of this micronutrient has been linked to reduced immunity. So, my tip: eat away on all this fatty marine goodness.
- Green leafy vegetables
Despite the very obvious fact that leafy green vegetables are totally supercharged with insane goodness in the form of immune boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, those morsels of powerful plant awesomeness appear to also stimulate the epithelial lymphocytes in our intestines. Therefore, they play a potent role in the regulation of immune responses, prevention of infection and the perseverance of good health. Whether you like it or not eating your dose of daily greens can make all the difference between vibrant healthfulness and run-down-flu-struck exhaustion. Your grandmother was right, after all. Here is to embracing the same old good as your most trusted superfoods such as spinach, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, mustard- and collard greens. Some things simply never become boring or go out of trend. Don’t you agree?
Don’t you love how easy it can be to stay on top of your healthful, I-feel-amazing- winter game? And that it tastes fabulously delicious too???
It is so true that we are what we eat…and if we commit to nourish our gorgeous selves with healthy-licious superfoods that strengthen our immune system, this is exactly what we will be all winter long: healthy and radiant with vast amounts of good energy. And from here on it only gets better: with all of this amazing vitality, you will want to move your precious body more too. Guess what? Being active will boost your inner defence mechanisms even further. Before you know it you find yourself in an upward cycle of sheer holistic bliss. Win, win situation. The wint