Our diets and dietary needs shift through the seasons so it makes sense that you're cooking more in fall. Proper diet, and consuming a blend of healthy foods, and choosing the right nutrient rich foods, are all important to ensure your immune function is optimal, to help keep illnesses away. When choosing foods to include in your meals, here are some you might want to consider adding.
One of the best ways to get vitamin A into your diet is from foods containing beta-carotene like sweet potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin, which your body turns into vitamin A. Vitamin A has immune boosting properties but is best known for skin health. The skin is one of the first barriers of pathogens, keep it healthy as your first line of defence.
Roasted sweet potatoes are excellent along side any dish!
There have been quite a few studies showing that garlic and one of it's active ingredients; allicin, has antibacterial and antiviral properties. The garlic can also help in stimulating the production of white blood cells in the body, and it is also going to work as an antioxidant in your system. If you're not a fan of the strong taste, you can always mask it into the dishes you are cooking, by chopping, dicing, and smashing the cloves, before adding them to a dish. This actually activates the enzyme properties and helps with taste. I love raw garlic in hummus!
Yogurt and Fermented foods
Live cultures that are found in yogurt and fermented foods, are able to help protect the intestinal tract against gastrointestinal illnesses, and will help to build up an immunity in your system against certain illnesses. From preventing the common cold, to having properties that have been found to help fight certain ailments, even cancer, you can't go wrong with adding these important foods into your diet.
Things like natural sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, and kimchi are a few foods with awesome bacterial benefits. Yogurt might be one of the easiest and tastiest to fight off illness, it is extremely high in protein, which is another beneficial factor when you are trying to remain as healthy as possible. Always look for sugar free, organic yogurts when shopping for them but if you would like to try making some, here is my easy to follow recipe.
The high vitamin C content in red or pink grapefruits make them essential to fighting off the common cold, or other illnesses. The rosy colour is also an indicator that the fruit has a high in bioflavanoids, and these are essential phytonutrients to your immune system. The high vitamin C content help boost immunity and has been studied to lower the duration of cold and reduction in symptoms, if taken in high doses throughout.
Button mushrooms are high in selenium and antioxidants. Most mushrooms are high vitamin B and niacin levels, also play a role in helping to keep your system safe. Mushrooms like Changa, and Maitake have immune boosting properties. The latest studies shows that Maitake is an efficient and potent activator of macrophages, key immune cells needed for a quick, healthy immune response.
Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and especially sprouts, are high in antioxidant, which are key to helping improve overall health. Choline is also high in these vegetables, which helps to keep your cells functioning optimally and supports your gastrointestinal barrier. Glutathione is also found in cauliflower, which is a powerful antioxidant, great for warding off illnesses. Try my yummy cauliflower gratin recipe here.
Not only are they extremely high in protein content, they are also packed with healthy fats that are essential to a healthy diet. High in Vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, and very rich in antioxidant levels, these are a common theme among the foods that are best as immune system guards.
These grains contain Beta-Glucans, a type of fibre with antibacterial, antimicrobial capabilities. Start your day with organic oats, chopped nuts and chia seeds, topped with cashew milk and sprinkled with cinnamon, this is the perfect cold weather start.
Dark Leafy greens
Greens such as kale, spinach, and swiss chard are immune-boosting foods that contain high levels of vitamin C, helping fight off infection and regenerate other antioxidants in the body, including vitamin E. They also contain folate, another essential immune booster.
Sautee kale, spinach, or Swiss chard with garlic and olive oil, or make a fresh spinach salad, top it with fresh mushrooms and make sauteed sweet potato croutons, for an extra immune-boosting combo.
Beans, seeds, nuts and legumes deliver high quality protein, along with healthy fibre. Fibre in these types of proteins keeps endotoxins (toxins produced from bacterial die off) flushed out and you healthy.
Add lentils or beans to your favourite soup recipe.
The two best types of tea for fending off viral and bacterial infections are Tulsi and Matcha green tea.
Tulsi tea, comes from the holy basil herb, has been used for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic medicine of India. Not only is this tea loaded with antioxidants, but it has multiple positive health benefits, including supporting your immune health, memory, heart health and vision.
Matcha Green Tea
Matcha is the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground powder, completely unfermented. The best Matcha comes from Japan and has up to seventeen times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, and seven times more than dark chocolate.
Green teas are rich in polyphenols, in the form of natural chemicals called catechins. The most powerful catechin in tea is epigallocatechin , which can be found to have superior antioxidant values being more potent than Vit. C or E.
Immunity from common infections involves not only preventing pathogens from taking hold, but also moderating your immune response to invading pathogens.
One wonderful thing about plants, especially herbs, is that they don't all stimulate your immune system some modulate it, or act as a buffer. These are known as adaptogens.
Here are some of the best herbs and spices for building a strong immune system that functions correctly:
Oregano the active agent is rosmarinic acid, a strong antioxidant; one tablespoon of oregano has the antioxidant capacity of one medium apple. Oil of Oregano has amazing antiviral, antibacterial properties. One to keep on hand through the year.
Turmeric general immune system booster due to its high antioxidant capacity, and an anticancer agent as well; turmeric is five to eight times stronger than vitamins C and E.
Cook with turmeric and combine it with healthy fats for best absorption.
Cinnamon Cinnamon is an antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial superstar, doing more than just boost the immune system, it actually fights the pathogens that cause illness. Cinnamon is extremely versatile, making it easy to add to your healthy diet. You can mix it into your coffee grinds, add it to tea, sprinkle it on oatmeal, or dust it onto fresh fruit. It's also a great for better circulation, something we can all use during winter.
Ginger The active ingredient in ginger are called ginerols and are now being extensively studied for their health benefits. Gingerol can help lower the risk of infections. In fact, ginger extract can inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria. Fresh ginger may also be effective against the RSV virus, a common cause of respiratory infections.
Honeysuckle and chrysanthemum: good antivirals.
Licorice: buffers the inflammatory response by increasing steroid output by the adrenal glands; a good buffer if your immune system is over responding to the flu.
Black Pepper: Increases the bio-availability of almost all other herbs and foods.
Remember to get out there, even when it's cold outside, this is on of the activities that conditions your immune system and heat it up in the kitchen, these foods may help nourish your micro-nutrient needs, but delighting in a healthy steamy hot soup on a cold day will help to nurture your soul.
Best Health to All!