Immune Boosting Foods
As the colder season falls upon us, we unfortunately find ourselves entering the dreaded cold and flu season. What if your diet and daily meals can substantially boost your immune system? Well they can! Fortunately with winter comes a variety of foods that promote a healthy immune system and can create a tasty meal for the cold days.
During fall and winter there are a plentiful amount of fruit and vegetables that become in season (Sustainable Table, 2019). Creating meals with these items will be easier to shop for, more sustainable for your community, and typically come at a lower cost. Consciously eating these foods will boost your immune system allowing you to say hello to winter and goodbye to colds.
Winter Fruits (June-August)
Winter Vegetables (June-August)
- Sweet potato*
Winter Herbs (June-August)
Foods may have a bigger impact on your health than you may have realized. 70% of your body’s immune system response comes solely from your digestive tract, therefore a happy gut can equal a happy immune system (Winter Wonders, 2018). How do you keep your gut happy as the weather gets colder, days grow shorter and your cozy couch and blankets call your name? When you find yourself curling up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket, instead of grabbing biscuits or chips to munch on, grab a bowl of premade soup, an orange or make avocado toast.
The best way to stay healthy is to eat local foods that are in season in the winter, as shown in the above list. A simple start to a happy gut is to avoid refined sugars (any sugars that are processed such as the common white sugar used as a sweetener) and boost your gut full of probiotics (Winter Wonders, 2018). Probiotics are found in yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut! Sauerkraut can be made home from cabbage or you can purchase it from your local grocer. Another great tip is to continue eating fresh fruits and vegetables even as the days get more cold!
Some other great foods and herbs to boost your immune system are also coming into season. The oil’s from oregano offer antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial components that you can eat, you can gargle with to cure a sore throat or you can use it as an essential oil to help reduce congestion (Winter Wonders, 2018). Another tasty herb that offers immune boosters is garlic. Garlic can be added to many vegetable melodies, meat dishes, winter salads and slow cooked meals.
Another natural way to alleviate the stuffy nose that keeps you awake all night is onions. Onions offer antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that fight the bad bacteria in your body (Winter Wonders, 2018). Onions are most powerful when they are raw, despite their strong taste. Try finely chopping them and adding them on top of a salad, add them to a soup immediately before serving or garnish a meat dish with raw onions on top.
During the dreary days of winter, add color to your meals! Any fruit or vegetable that is yellow or orange in color offer immune boosting aspects and an aesthetically pleasing touch to your meal! Citrus fruits such as grapefruit, tangelo, mandarin, pineapple, lemon, rhubarb or oranges offer a taste of sunshine and natural Vitamin C. Vitamin C’s purpose is to boost your immune system and help fight the bad bacteria and viruses. Vitamin C in your body decreases substantially when your body is undergoing stress or is ill (Nutrition and Metabolism, 2005). Eating these fruits that are plentiful in the winter will help your body fight viruses.
Pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots offer Vitamin A and beta carotene into your diet. Vitamin A simply supports your immune system similarly as to Vitamin C. Vitamin A works by creating cells known as T-cells which fight and destroy virus cells that enter the body (Nature Reviews Immunology, 2008). Beta carotene is turned into Vitamin A in your body, offering more support against viruses.
How should you incorporate these foods? Find a hot soup recipe that highlights pumpkin, sweet potato, or carrots. See the Roasted Carrot Soup recipe for Tasty Tuesday featured on our page. Drink an herbal tea containing peppermint or ginger to sooth the stomach and warm the body. Go to the local grocer and find these fruits and vegetables that are in season and get creative with your recipes!
It is important to remember that although these foods can give your immune system a happy head start into winter, there are many other important factors to keeping your body healthy. Remembering to say no when you are feeling under the weather. Taking time to be mindful throughout the day and allowing for moments of relaxation. Continue to get physical exercise and engage in social interactions throughout the colder months. Most importantly have a well-balanced day with adequate amounts of sleep and minimal stress.
Written by Phaelan Mead
Kuriel, V., Nation, K., Phillips, A., Gooding, S., Tuck, F., Anand, A., & Bingley-Pullin, Z. (2018). Nature and Health: Winter Wonders.
Mora, J. R., Iwata, M., & H von Andrian, U. (2008). Nature Reviews Immunology: Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take the centre stage.
Sustainable Table (2019). Seasonal Produce Guide. Retrieved from: https://sustainabletable.org.au/all-things-ethical-eating/seasonal-produce-guide/
Wintergerst, E. S., Maggini, S., & Hornig, D. H. (2005). Nutrition and Metabolism: Immune Enhancing Role of Vitamin C and Zinc and Effect on Clinical Conditions.