As the nights draw closer, and temperatures drop, many of us are left wondering how we can keep our immune system functioning well this winter.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that there are no single foods or specific diets that will ‘boost’ immunity. In the UK, there are actually no foods that are allowed to make claims that they ‘protect against infection’.
The skin has an immune system that protects the body from infection and toxins. It also acts as a physical barrier against the external environment. Immune cells inhabit the dermis and epidermis and when harmful substances are detected, they send an influx of white blood cells to help deal with the threat. Studies have shown that foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes can boost and build up our immunity function, fighting free radicals, premature cell damage and inflammation.
What nutrients can help support immunity?
However, the nutrients that keep our immune system working well include vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D as well as copper, folate, iron, selenium and zinc.
Should I take supplements?
Dr Zamani takes a holistic viewpoint to health and is “personally a big fan of eating our nutrients rather than using oral supplements but if you cannot manage a wholesome diet filled with fruits, veggies, and healthy fats, then supplements can be helpful. Sleeping well is very important to the body’s natural ability to restore itself. Beauty sleep is not a myth!”
What are some of the top immunity boosting superfoods?
Instead, focus on getting these nutrients from a healthy, varied diet including fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, dairy products or fortified alternatives, and meat, fish or plant proteins like pulses.
These are rich in the mineral selenium and the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin. If you’re low on selenium, you may be more likely to get a more severe flu. Riboflavin and niacin play a role in a healthy immune system.
Rich in Zinc, which appears to have virus-fighting powers. Zinc helps create and activate white blood cells involved in the immune response. It also assists your immune system heal wounds.
Abundant with the antioxidant, glutathione. It strengthens the immune system so it can fight infection.
This is the part of a wheat seed that feeds a baby wheat plant, and it’s rich in the nutrients zinc, antioxidants, and B vitamins.
Wheat germ delivers a good mix of fibre, protein, and some healthy fat. In recipes, substitute some of the regular flour with wheat germ.
A well-known super food. Rich in folate, which helps the body make new cells and repair DNA. It also contains fibre, antioxidants such as vitamin C. Eat spinach raw to get the most benefit.
Like carrots, sweet potatoes have beta-carotene. When ingested, it turns into vitamin A, which fights damaging free radicals. This helps bolster the immune system and may even improve the aging process.
An immune-boosting basic. It has vitamins A and C, and the antioxidant glutathione. Add to any dish or top with some low-fat cheese to round out a side dish.
The traditional Japanese seasoning, made of fermented soybeans, often added to sauces. It has probiotics, the “good” bacteria found in yogurt, some fermented foods, and your gut.
As well as easing nausea and vomiting, this root provides antioxidants in abundance! Add to tea, juices or stir frys to get added protection from germs this winter.
Try this warming recipe:
Carrot and Ginger Immunity-Supporting Soup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 lb carrots, chopped into 1/2-inch rounds
1-inch knob ginger, finely diced
1/2 inch knob turmeric, peeled and finely chopped (or 1 tsp turmeric powder)
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup coconut milk
Freshly ground pepper
- Over the stovetop, heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, onion, and carrot and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until soft. Then add ginger and turmeric and sauté for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add broth and salt. Bring to a boil and boil and then turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes to let flavours combine and the carrots get really soft.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it’s a smooth consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer soup in batches to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Stir in coconut milk and season with freshly ground pepper.
Leftovers can be kept in refrigerator for 3-5 days. Enjoy!