As the autumn nights get colder and winter approaches, it’s so tempting to hibernate and sit in front of the fire instead of heading to the gym. It’s also the time of year when cold and flu season strikes leaving you full of sniffles and sneezes, zapping your energy even more.
Here at Kiht we’ve pulled together a list of five immune system boosting foods and ingredients, to help prepare your body for the winter and keep your energy levels up.
Of course, you can help boost your immune system by filling your plate with plenty of colourful servings of fruit and veg, but adding these ingredients to your diet can help you feel great and keep those colds at bay.
Garlic has a long history as an immune system booster because of its antiseptic, anti-fungal and nutritive properties, which help protect against bacterial and viral infections. Eaten raw or in a capsule, research shows it is a good preventative medicine against coughs, colds and chest infections during the winter.
Garlic is packed with nutrients, particularly vitamins B1, B6 and C, iron and phosphorus and alliin which converts to allicin, which is thought to be the major antibacterial constituent of garlic. The minimum effective dose for raw garlic is a single clove, eaten with meals two or three times a day.
2. Iron rich foods
A diet containing too little iron can lead to anaemia and weaken the immune system. Maintain your intake of iron-rich foods, by including meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale, and dried fruit in your diet. Combining iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C can help boost your absorption even further.
It's important to remember that overly high blood iron levels can be harmful and may actually suppress the immune system. Therefore, it's best to use iron supplements only if you have an iron deficiency, or on the advice of your GP.
3. Probiotic rich foods
Probiotics are bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Did you know, our digestive tracts are critical to our health, because 80 per cent of your entire immune system is located in your digestive tract!
If you don’t have enough probiotics, the side effects can include digestive disorders, skin issues, candida, autoimmune disease, and frequent colds and flus. Good sources of probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, coconut kefir, raw cheese such as goat’s cheese, kefir, kimchi, miso and kombucha.
4. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and tangerines are high in vitamin C, a well-known immunity booster. Vitamin C is recognised for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it also helps maintain the integrity of your skin, which acts as a protective barrier against infection.
In addition, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, helping protect your immune cells against harmful compounds formed in response to viral or bacterial infections. Other foods high in vitamin C include peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, papaya and sugar snap peas.
Ginger is packed with immune-boosting benefits. It can help reduce fevers, soothe sore throats, and encourage coughing to remove mucus from the chest. The chemicals shagaols and gingerols in ginger give it a spicy kick which stimulates blood circulation and opens your sinuses. Improved circulation means that more oxygen is getting to your tissues to help remove toxins and viruses.
Why not try this warming winter chicken soup to boost your immune system?
Serves: 4 - 6
2 green chillies
4 garlic cloves
1 red onion
2 inch piece of ginger
1 small butternut squash, deseeded
1 small punnet Shiitake mushrooms
5 Chicken thighs
1. Finely chop the chillies, garlic, onion and sauté until the onion softens.
2. Chop the butternut squash into cubes, slice the mushrooms and add both to the pan with the skinless chicken thighs. Stir well, then add enough chicken stock to cover.
3. Simmer until the squash is soft and the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken from the soup and blitz the remaining ingredients in a blender until smooth.
4. Shred the chicken from the bones, return the meat to the soup and serve with a squeeze of lime and fresh herbs.
Let us know your favourite immune boosting tips and ingredients – we’d love to hear your recipes!
By Victoria Hall