Plenty of foods are natural immune boosters. These foods form the basis of my JUMPSTART AUTUMN, Real food for Busy People program - a four week program of meal plans and recipes made easy which you can now start any time. Find out more here.
Here are some of these foods and why they are so good for you and your family at this time of year:
• Garlic - antiviral and anti-bacterial - add to soups, casseroles or chop and swallow pieces whole without chewing (that avoids the garlic breath!)
• Chicken soup (esp with bone broth) - mum was right ...it's hydrating, easily digested and packed with anti- inflammatory amino acids like glycine and arginine and immune boosting minerals such as sulphur, magnesium and phosphorus.
Soups are good really as they tend to pack in vegetables and are hydrating to flush the body - beware the supermarket soups though which can be high in sodium/salt. Best to make your own (and freeze it) if you can. Try my Supercharged Chicken soup here.
• Leafy green vegetables - such as spinach (slightly steamed/blanched, added to soups and casseroles), asian greens etc. High in vitamin C - high in potassium and magnesium which act as electrolytes and help hydrate us.
• Pumpkin & carrots - full of anti-oxidant vitamins such as Vitamin A, C and E as well as B vitamins - my kids love pumpkin soup - keep the seeds and roast them with a sprinkle of sea-salt - they are rich in fibre and mono-unsaturated fats so great for you as well. Try my Orange Veggie Soup here.
• Red and other brightly coloured vegetables - the brighter the colour generally the higher anti-oxidant content. (Antioxidants protect our immune cells from oxidative damage) Beetroot, purple carrots, capsicum etc.
• Cruciferous Vegetables - broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts etc - high in choline so wonderful for the gut lining and high in glutathione which is essential for detoxification via our livers, also high in Vitamin C and Calcium. If you can only get your kids to eat one vegetable....make it broccoli (organic preferably - it tastes better and doesn't have chemicals) - I use it and stalks (pulverised in the Thermi in spaghetti bolognaise, casseroles, stocks etc).
Mushrooms - used in traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years - one of the few foods that contain vitamin D - essential for immunity, also zinc. Look for varieties such as shitake, reishi in fresh or dried forms to add to soups and casseroles they add a beautiful flavour.
Foods rich in zinc - red meat, lentils, cashews, mushrooms, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, oysters. Zinc not only helps prevent colds but also reduces the severity of a cold (I always take a zinc supplement when I feel a cold coming on).
• Ginger - anti-inflammatory, soothing to the gut, helps elimination - use in teas, soups etc. It's also great for nausea and vomiting as it helps settle the gut.
• Prebiotic and Probiotic foods - These guys ensure that our gut has the good bacteria needed to break down our food for absoption and support a healthy immune system. Pre-biotics include garlic, leeks, onion, bitter greens like rocket, endive and dandilion. Probiotics include - fermented foods such as miso soup, kim chi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, cultured butter, natural yoghurt.
• Spices - chilli, turmeric, ginger, lemongrass - all those delicious spices are fabulous for the immune system as they are anti-inflammatory and anti bacterial - autumn is a great time for curries.
• Herbs - parsley, coriander, basil and most fresh herbs - concentrated sources of goodness - full of flavinoids which protect cell structure and have antioxidant effects, also antibacterial.
• Cinnamon - antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal - also helps curb sugar cravings - add to porridge, tea, casseroles.
• Citrus - eat an orange (not just the juice), lemon , lime- a wonderful addition to teas, grapefruit - all high in vitamin C.
• Plenty of fluids - soups and teas are wonderful. Try my Winter Warming Tea - with cinnamon, lemon, ginger and mint for an immune boost - kids love this too.
• Sleep and Rest- this is the "lifestyle" part - getting enough sleep is a really important for a strong immunity. Rest and sleep is our body's chance to rebuild, recuperate and manage stress. As it gets colder we tend to need a bit
more sleep and this is super important for children as they are so busy playing, learning and processing all day - they need that rest to grow and to stay well.
Sugar and your immune system:
Books have been written about the evils of sugar - (I'm all about moderation and a little QUALITY sweet is OK - but more about that later). Your immune system HATES sugar - it stifles our white blood cells (they are the immune cells that kill germs and infections in our bodies) reducing their effect by up to 40%!! This is because white blood cells need Vitamin C to kill bacteria and viruses and sugar competes with VItamin C uptake into these cells. So for a strong immune system - cut back on the sweet stuff!