What we eat can have a huge impact on our immune function.
We can help or hinder our immune defences with the foods and drinks we consume, so being aware of what foods you can include in your diet to help boost your immune function is a great way of using food as medicine.
These immune boosting foods can also help you on your way to recovery if you are struck down with a cold or flu and similarly, excluding the immune depressing foods can help your body to heal faster.
Immune boosting foods:
Fruits - Think seasonally when you think about your fruit and veggie intake. What's in season is likely to be fresher and still full of nutrients. Plus, nature has this amazing intelligence and ability to provide us with what we need at the right time.
For people who are prone to coughs and chest infections in winter, I always recommend they eat a pear every day. I picked this tip up from acupuncturist Kim Gatenby. In traditional Chinese medicine pears are thought to nourish the lungs and I have always found that the pear a day trick works!
The other fruits to focus on for an immune boost are berries, citrus, stone fruits, pineapple, papaya and kiwi fruit.
Vegetables - It's always good to eat a rainbow of fruit and veggies to ensure we're getting a wide variety of nutrients. When it comes to the best immune boosting vegetables in this rainbow, I'd go for broccoli, red capsicum, sweet potato, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, onions, beetroot and cauliflower.
Herbs and Spices - Garlic, Garlic, Garlic. I'm sure we all know that garlic is antimicrobial and great for boosting our immune defences. Other goodies you should be including in your food are ginger, chilli, parsley, turmeric, oregano and coriander.
Chicken Soup - We've all heard about chicken soup for the soul, but did you know that in recent years it has been scientifically proven that chicken soup is good for the immune system? If you're in the throws of a cold, cooking up a batch of fresh chicken soup might be the last thing you feel like doing. So I'd recommend either making up a batch of chicken bone broth to freeze so you can add the veggies and other bits as needed, or just make and freeze the chicken soup now for easy dinners and cold & flu emergencies!
Protein - include grass fed meat, oily fish, brazil nuts, pepitas, eggs, sunflower seeds, beans and legumes.
Foods to avoid if you get a cold or flu:
Uhh ohh, despite your best effort you've managed to catch a dreaded lurgy :( It's not necessarily a bad thing if you catch the odd cold from time to time. It means your immune system is working! But we want to help your body to recover as quickly as possible. The normal cold will last for 6 days. Whenever I catch a cold, I can always cut mine down to 3 days by taking immune boosting herbs and nutrients, resting, eating a wide variety of the above mentioned foods and avoiding the foods on the list below.
Dairy - will absolutely, without a doubt make you more congested. Cut it out for a few days while you're coughing and spluttering to help your body heal.
Sugar - The arch enemy of the immune system. Avoid at all costs! Of course you can still have some fruit as mentioned above but don't consume bottled fruit juice, soft drinks, lollies or biscuits.
Processed and packaged foods - You won't find many nutrients here. Try to keep to real food, as fresh and possible and full of vitality!
I hope these dietary tips help to keep your immune system strong this winter. If you do catch a cold, soldiering on is the best way to make it hang around for ages. Please take a day or two off and allow your body to heal.