Date: 6 July 2023

Add These 5 Immune Boosters To Your Meals This Winter

5 immune boosting foods

Wellbeing in the kitchen

With the winter chill well upon us here has never been a more important time to incorporate immunity boosting foods into your home-cooked meals.

Now is the time to focus on your health, and arm the immune system with all it needs to fight whatever this season will throw at you as the cold and flu season hits.

Getting enough sleep, plenty of fresh air, keeping stress manageable, exercising and staying hydrated are all vital for good health, however there are five key nutrients that act like a coat of armour around your immune system.

The best way to boost your immune system is on a whole food, low sugar diet.  The more nutrient-dense foods you eat daily, the better.

These five are significantly potent immune-boosting nutrients that will give your body that extra wall of defense. Best of all you can find them in whole-foods which are easy to add to your winter meals!

1. Zinc

Zinc is a well-loved mineral in the immunity world.  It nourishes and supports innate (first defense) and adaptive immunity (long-term, has memory).

Zinc is a co-factor for over 200 enzymatic reactions within the body, with many of these being immune-dependent mechanisms.  It supports the thymus gland in adaptive T-cell production/regulation and acts as a free-radical scavenger.

We love zinc as it supports against viruses and bacterial pathogens and promotes healthy function and integrity for our white blood cells: macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, T-cells and lymphocytes.

Food Sources:  Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, egg yolks, seafood, oysters, beef.

Chick peas are high in zinc good for winter immunity.

2. Vitamin C

This is probably your go-to nutrient when it comes to immune-boosting superstars, and all for the right reasons!

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is one of the body’s most essential antioxidants, and unfortunately, we need to get it from external sources.

Vitamin C has been shown to significantly strengthen the body’s immunity, particularly during times of stress and infections.  White blood cells have high concentrations of vitamin C that are essential to all levels of defense against free radicals, pathogens and inflammation.  It helps to upsurge white blood cells (first defense and adaptive) communication, durability and pathogen killing abilities! Even better, if you have those nasty lymphatic inflammatory conditions, vitamin C contains substantial detoxification and anti-inflammatory properties.

This is a great nutrient to have on hand for viruses, bacterial infections – especially for systemic or respiratory conditions.

Food Sources:  green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, kiwis, papaya, strawberries, mango, red peppers, and cabbage.

Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C for winter wellness.

3. Vitamin A

Vitamin A comes in many different molecular structures, retinyl palmitate is one of the most abundant forms and retinyl esters are found mainly in animal products such as: eggs, liver, fish oils, milk and butter.

Plants provide us with the precursors to Vitamin A in a carotenoid form, this proceeds to further biochemical reactions to make Vitamin A.

Carotenoids have potent antioxidant effects in the body and can improve our immunity by nourishing our white blood cells and lymphatic detoxification.  Vitamin A is excellent for skin and gut integrity, which is our first line of defense from the exterior pathogenic world.

Food Sources: Orange-coloured fruits and vegetables, and dark green leafy vegetables including papaya, squash, carrots, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, kale, and pumpkin.

Sweet potatos and other orange skinned vegetables are high in Vitamin A.

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is best sourced from UV sunlight, it is obtained through two pathways: activation within the skin and through the diet.  If you receive adequate levels of sunlight, usually you would not need to supplement vitamin D.  Unfortunately, many of us live in rather gloomy climates where supplementation is vital.

Vitamin D has been shown to significantly regulate immunity and to support auto-immune conditions.  This wonderful fat-soluble vitamin also enhances the first defense system mechanisms against pathogens and improves our immune systems; targeting, natural killing and detoxification processes.

Food Source: Animal products, mainly eggs, liver, fatty fish, and butter.

Eggs and fish for breakfast are a great source of Vitamin D to help boost immunity.

5. Selenium

Selenium is an essential trace element found in high quantities within immune tissues such as the spleen and lymphatics. It has been shown to regulate innate and adaptive immunity, particularly against virulence of viruses, sometimes these can be harmless but without sufficient selenium, they can mutate into more powerful and detrimental forms.

Selenium can improve antigen response times and increase natural killer production (pretty much helping your immune systems army prep for full force). Selenium supplementation can improve lymphatic detoxification, reduce abnormal cell mutations, increase white blood cell response/structural integrity and can improve illness recovery duration.

Food sources:  Brazil nuts, alfalfa, organic meats/eggs, onion, garlic and broccoli. Eggs are also rich in selenium.

Broccoli is one source of selenium you can add to your home cooked meals.

Extra tips for nutrient immune support:

  • Ensure you’re getting 2 litres of filtered water per day.
  • Make a batch of organic bone broth and drink 1 – 2 x cups per day. Go Healthy’s resident naturopath, Ema Taylor explains you can easily make your own bone broth by “simmering bones and connective tissue from animals, which releases nutrients such as collagen, calcium, and magnesium. These minerals are essential for a strong functioning digestive system”. 
  • Add in an extra nutrient-dense super green juice (kale, turmeric, ginger, lemon, cucumber and celery). “Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and cumin are just a few examples of healing spices that can help support immune health. Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body and is a perfect addition to juices and soups” explains Ema.
  • Add spices to your meals. A suggestion from Ema is ginger “known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s an excellent immune-boosting spice, and is a tasty addition to stir-fries and tea. Cumin is also a rich source of antioxidants that can help protect against cellular damage and support overall health.
  • Have 1 x source of probiotic-rich foods per day (sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso soup or yoghurt), if you think this is difficult to fit in, I would highly recommend taking a good quality probiotic, since around 70% of your immune system resides in the gut [1].

Written by Kris Abbey.

Discover more about clean eating and food as medicine HERE.

Ema Taylor is a degree-qualified naturopath, clinical nutritionist, and certified fertility awareness educator. Ema is passionate about helping women understand their bodies, finding harmony with their hormones and optimising their fertility so they can live a more empowered life and truly thrive. Discover more about GO Healthy HERE

Read more Health and Wellness Tips HERE

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