We are already laying out and exploring activities near a heater, with the colder days yet to come! This season is a call to action to fully nourish, fill the body with clean, colorful plants and stay cozy and comfortable with teas, herbs and superfoods to strengthen our immune system.
Immunity is very much related to what is happening in your gut – as 80% of your immune system lives there. By eating more anti-inflammatory foods that are rich in vitamins and phytonutrients, you will improve the health of your gut flora, thus supporting healthy immune function.
Here is a list of eight foods to nourish your body, strengthen your immunity and satisfy your taste buds who want comfort this season.
An Ancient Nutritional Power for a reason – turmeric does more than just make latte quite functional (though this is one way to get your golden dose of saffron goodness!).
Turmeric is rich in antioxidants, the kindness that fights inflammation needed by our vulnerable immune systems, and contains an active ingredient called curcumin. Curcumin is antiviral, antifungal and can help keep the immune system strong.
How to enjoy: Combine turmeric with black pepper to increase the absorption of all the goodies. Prepare a turmeric latte by heating 1 cup of your favorite milk in a saucepan, add 1 teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and a slice of black pepper. Let it simmer and after it cools down, take a sip in winter bliss. Or just add turmeric to curry, rice or soup.
A source of plant-based proteins and healthy fats, pumpkin seeds are also packed with zinc – an important mineral to avoid sniffing and sluggishness in the cold season.
How to enjoy: Sprinkle in oatmeal or smoothie, mix in a pumpkin seed pesto or add a tablespoon to your breakfast oatmeal. Enjoy a slice of at least 75% dark chocolate in the afternoon (you have our permission), or fry a few chives for a salad or curry to help maintain optimal zinc levels in the body.
Ayurvedic medicine has relied on the ability of ginger to boost immunity for centuries. A natural anti-inflammatory, sedative and diaphoretic (an ingredient that causes sweating), ginger is used to reduce fever, cold and flu symptoms, as well as indigestion, stomach aches, headaches and sore throats.
How to enjoy: In a tea, fresh, cut into slices and added to warm water with lemon, juiced with roots and other nutritious fruits like beets, carrots and apples, or chopped and added as a base to your favorite curry.
Thanks to its antibacterial properties, garlic is a well-known immune booster to avoid colds and flu and is a food that can be easily consumed on a regular basis.
How to enjoy: Grated and cooked in a vegetable-based pasta sauce, or mixed raw with lemon, herb, salt, pepper, olive oil and a little honey to make a delicious salad dressing.
By warming the body from the inside out, this spice works to decongest by clearing the mucosa during a cold or flu. It is also an anti-inflammatory.
How to enjoy: Boil a few cinnamon sticks for a soothing tea, add a little cinnamon powder to any drink or sprinkle in your oatmeal or pancake mix for a warm weekend dessert.
Dark green, with leaves
If there is one thing you can do to improve your health and well-being – during the winter and beyond – is to eat more greens. Packed with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, dark green leafy vegetables are also a key source of ingredients that help our immune system communicate. They also enhance the vitality of our beauty parts – hair, skin and nails – so don’t be ashamed to load up with kale, spinach, rocket, greens, Swiss chard or bok choy.
How to enjoy: In Buddha bowls, toss in pasta, soup, smoothie or juices or fried with garlic and onion.
“Happy gut, happy life.” Great for good gut health – Fermented foods help nourish and thrive your good gut bacteria. Think tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, plain Greek yogurt or homemade pickles and vegetables.
How to enjoy: Fried tempeh added to fried, miso in a salad dressing or soup, sauerkraut added to a bowl of sandwich or rice, fried kimchi rice, yoghurt boats with papaya and crunchy pickled vegetables added to a poke bowl or served with hummus and guacamole as a snack.
Tomatoes and other red and orange foods
Vitamin C gets a lot of praise when it comes to immunity, and although it may not reduce the risk of colds, it can help boost immunity and reduce the duration of symptoms.
In general, red and orange fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C – making it an easy visual reminder to include at least one red or orange meal a day (think tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, papayas, mangoes and pineapples).
An average tomato contains approximately 80 mg of vitamin C (according to the US National Institutes of Health – aim for about 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg per day for men).
This versatile fruit is delicious at any time of the day, works well raw or cooked, and is easy to incorporate into almost any breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
How to enjoy: Cook the chopped tomatoes and reduce to a rich tomato sauce. Add to salads, fry with other vegetables and add to a bowl of cereal. Cut and add to breakfast or lunch wrapper.
Kylie Jane is a nutritionist and founder of the modern wellness brand, SANA Wellness. Kylie has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Physiology, has studied Nutrition and Dietetics and has been professionally trained as a health trainer through the New York-based Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
In 2020, Kylie founded SANA – a modern welfare brand focused on well-being from within. SANA items and the growing range of essential superfoods are created to nourish and brighten the body and mind every day.