If only there was one magical food that could fight off the winter germs! In reality, the key to winter wellness is a varied diet with an array of vitamins, minerals and protein to help support your health.
Here are a few key foods high in nutrients that you can consider adding to your diet to help keep the immune system running healthy 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 go well in stir frys and even in chocolate brownies.
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.
Other 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 filmjolk). 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. Pouring extra virgin olive oil on vegetables make them taste nicer; therefore, you will eat more of them, further boosting your vitamin and mineral intake!
Vitamin C-Heavy Fruits
Last but not least, keep up your vitamin C levels with kiwifruit, citrus fruits and berries. Aim for two pieces of fruit a day – try enjoying them in a fruit salad bowl with some probiotic yogurt.
Finally, in winter, we often like to keep indoors more. A fun indoor winter activity is cooking with family and friends. 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 on the immune system, so take some time to enjoy a meal together to help you get through winter well.