Be a Step Ahead of Cold & Flu Season with These Top 8 Immune Boosting Foods!

With the change of seasons upon us as we approach the winter months, this is the perfect opportunity for that virus or bacteria to sneak past your lowered defenses and wreck havoc in your body.

Taking extra vitamin C and having that bottle of Echinacea at hand for the first sign of vulnerability might be a good idea, but don’t overlook the power of food as your medicine! When seasons change, so should the foods we select to be our staples. At this time of the year salads, cold breakfast smoothies and other ‘cooling’ foods such as melons and citrus fruits should be consumed minimally, while broths and stews should be more ample in the diet – making use of local and seasonal foods!

Here’s our take on the top 8 immune boosting and flu-busting foods:

  1. Garlic – Lightly crushing releases its active constituent ‘allicin’ which has superb antimicrobial (antibacterial, anti-fungal  antiviral) properties. Garlic is also a warming food, great addition for the winter cold. Best eaten raw as heat destroys the allicin but not many can tolerate the pungency so just add a couple more cloves into your stir-fry or stew!
  2. Ginger – A very energetically warming  food with antibacterial and strong anti-inflammatory properties. If you must have a breakfast smoothie, you can offset the ‘cooling’ nature by adding a slice of ginger to your drink. Another great way to make use of fresh ginger is to boil a couple of slices in water, sweeten to taste (try Manuka honey – see #7) and you get your very own ginger tea.
  3. Curcumin – Also known as Tumeric, this commonly used spice in curries is a fantastic anti-inflammatory. It does however also possess antioxidant and antibacterial properties. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to treat coughs, sore throats, digestive problems and to improve circulation.
  4. Mushrooms (Shitake, Maitake, Reishi) – Mushrooms are in fact one of the best immune-modulators out there. Immune modulators do exactly just that. They modulate or regulate your immune system. If your immunity is low, they help give it it a boost and conversely, if you had an overactive immune system eg: autoimmune disease, immune-modulators  tell your immune cells to calm down. In addition, these culinary mushrooms are great antibacterial and antiviral agents.
  5. Cabbage – A great in-season food! Believe it or not, cabbage has high amounts of the immune boosting Vitamin C. So for winter, out go the oranges and in comes the cabbage. Red cabbage contains anthocyanins which is what contributes to its red/purplish color, a similar constituent in berries. Anthocyanins are fantastic antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
  6. Leeks – A sibling to garlic and onions, the organosulphur compounds in leeks are responsible for its similar immune boosting and anti-cancer properties. Another great addition to that winter stew!
  7. Manuka honey – Derived from the manuka bushes in New Zealand, Manuka honey certainly hasn’t received the attention it deserves. High in ‘Unique Manuka Factor’, Manuka honey strongly inhibits bacterial growth along with its internal and topical healing properties. It is also has anti-tussive (cough suppressant) properties, making it a safe and effective alternative to over-the-counter cough syrups.
  8. Sweet potatoes – The darker the sweet potato, the higher the content of carotenes. Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotenes – the precursor to Vitamin A which is one of the main anti-oxidants needed by your body. This delicious root vegetable also contains considerable amount of Vitamin C.

Incorporate these foods in your diet all year round, but be more generous with them during the cold and flu season to keep you and your family health and happy!

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