Have you ever wondered if certain foods can help combat winter germ season? Some people swear by a bowl of hearty chicken soup as a fix for the common cold. While there might not be one magical food that works for everyone, the best way to fight off infections and keep up a healthy immune system is through a healthy diet.
Nutritionists, like Swisse dietitian, Simone Austin, know a healthy immune diet filled with vitamins, minerals and protein can bring you the greatest health benefits. In winter months, it’s especially important to focus on eating foods that can help fight off infections.
Winter germs aside, most of us are exposed to pollution and toxins in our modern and busy lives. It’s a good idea to keep your pantry stocked with quality foods helpful boosting your immune system year round.
5 Foods for a Strong Immune System
There’s more to keeping your immune response healthy than clear broth soups and green tea. Here are a few key foods high in nutrients that you can consider adding to your diet this winter.
People are often hesitant about cooking seafood at home. However, it’s worth trying, as seafood is packed with valuable nutrients that might help you get through winter a little healthier.
It’s a good source of protein, which is helpful in building immune system cells. Oily-type fish, such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, along with oysters, have higher levels of zinc, which supports immune system functioning and wound healing.
Oily fish also have vitamin A and vitamin D. These support healthy functioning of the immune system. Not many foods contain vitamin D — we obtain most of it from the sun.
Legumes are a good food source for your gut bacteria, which supports the immune system. Legumes contain prebiotic fiber, which is basically what your gut bacteria likes to eat. The prebiotic fiber travels undigested through the digestive system to your large intestine, where the bacteria ferment it. This fermentation produces short chain fatty acids and gases that are healthy for your gut.
You can add legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, lupins and lentils to casseroles, soups and curries. Black beans are typically used in Southwest dishes, yet they actually go well in stir-fry too.
Thanks to your increased intake of fiber, your gut bacteria is well fed. Now, let’s look at how we can increase the volume of bacteria colonies you have. Eating foods containing 1 billion CFU (colony forming units) probiotics per gram or more will help boost your good gut bacteria.
Try foods such as fermented teas (kombucha), fermented vegetables that are not pasteurized (e.g., sauerkraut found in the fridge section of the supermarket, rather than the shelf variety), miso (fermented soy beans), fermented yogurt drinks (e.g. kefir or filmjölk). A variety of these will provide you with a range of different beneficial bacteria. The number and variety of strains is important for good health.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Antioxidants can help support the immune system. We often think of fruit and vegetables for antioxidants — and while these are a major source, extra virgin olive oil that is fresh and good quality will also provide us with antioxidants. Antioxidants help mop up free radicals, damage caused by oxidation in the body. Extra virgin olive oil helps with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin E, which also work as an antioxidant. Adding extra virgin olive oil on your vegetables will make them tasty so you may eat even more of them. It’s a simple taste trick to boost vitamin and mineral intake.
Citrus Fruits Heavy in Vitamin-C
Last but not least, keep up your vitamin C levels with citrus fruits and berries. Aim for two pieces of fruit a day – try enjoying them in a fruit salad bowl with some probiotic yogurt. Blood oranges are one of the most popular ingredients at Swisse. They differ from their orange-colored relatives in both look and taste, as they have a deep red flesh and a hint of raspberry flavor. They’re a delicious fruit that naturally contains antioxidant properties such as vitamin C and anthocyanins. The red color of blood orange is due to the high levels of anthocyanins they contain. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, and they can be consumed as part of your daily intake.
When the weather turns cold and blustery in winter, we often like to keep indoors more. Cooking with family and friends can be a fun indoor winter activity. It is a great way to bond and enjoy food at the same time. It can be a relaxing time to sit and enjoy a longer lunch, dinner or weekend breakfast.
Stress negatively impacts the immune system, so take some time to enjoy a meal together to help you get through winter well.