It’s that time of year again. Flu season! I’ve had my flu shot, but unfortunately there are no guarantees. And of course, there is a nasty flu doing the rounds. I am not a good patient, so I’ve decided to be more proactive and boost my immunity. As they say, prevention is better than cure!
The most obvious way to boost immunity is through supplements. Supplements are really convenient (and perfect if your diet is a bit dodgy or you have no time), but it’s easy to take too much, potentially causing other issues down the line. The most popular advice at the moment is to eat yourself healthy. The right immune-boosting foods may be able to fend off winter sniffles.
Best of all, many of these foods are found in the vegetable section of the local supermarket. The most potent cold and flu fighters are fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains; rich in vitamins (vitamin C in particular), minerals (especially zinc), and phytochemicals. Plant Power!
Here’s what to look for.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C
We all know vitamin C helps boost our immunity. It’s a no brainer! That’s why we pop so many vitamin C tablets in winter. It is one of the most important vitamins to dose up on in the cooler months.
The body can’t store vitamin C, so we need to make sure we eat a variety of foods throughout the day which help bolster and maintain vitamin C levels. There are a huge variety of foods rich in vitamin C, including: red and green bell peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, cantaloupe, papaya, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, skin-on baked potatoes, spinach and green peas.
Citrus and tomato juices also provide rich amounts of the nutrient (fresh, not cartons). And raw fruits and vegetables will give you a bigger bang for your buck.
Foods Rich in Zinc
Zinc is found in almost every cell in the body. It is crucial for a healthy immune system, as well as to help more than 300 enzymes in the body function properly. So, if your body is low in zinc, you may struggle to fight off infections such as a cold or flu.
Luckily, many plant-based foods are rich in zinc, including: chickpeas, spinach, cashews, pecans, almonds, turnips, peas, oats, whole wheat grain, cocoa, pumpkin seeds, ginger root and mushrooms.
Foods That Contain Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals (‘Phyto’ means plant in Greek), are thought to be just as important to boosting immunity as vitamins and minerals. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, grains and beans. They give these foods their rich colour, aromas and flavours. And they’re powerful players in building a strong immune system!
Dark vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli and dark leaf lettuce are particularly high in certain phytochemicals (the darker and leafier, the better), as too are carrots, pumpkin and winter squash. Eating more of these foods will help bolster natural defences.
Hints & Tips
If you want to boost your immune system the plant-based way, here are some tips on how to up your fruit and veg intake.
If adding more fruit and veg at mealtimes feels like hard work, just whip up a juice or smoothie in the blender. Try this smoothie recipe if you need inspiration. Or for a simple vitamin injection, try making this lemonade.
Eat the Rainbow
A general rule of thumb for adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, is to eat the rainbow. Eating a variety of colourful fruits and veg throughout the day, is an easy way to get a lot of vitamins and minerals without putting in too much effort. Think red, orange, yellow, green and purple to get a good hit of vitamin C and phytochemicals. For a hit of orange, try this carrot salad.
Vegetables at Breakfast
Add more veg to every meal – even breakfast! We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And now there has never been a better excuse to get creative at breakfast: scrambled eggs with sautéed vegetables; sweet potato hash; stir fried quinoa with vegetables and fried egg; or quinoa salad with raw vegetables.
In my house, if you add an egg to it, it’s breakfast!
If you have any other tips on how to avoid a cold or flu naturally, I would love to hear. xx