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Fall is in full swing! With that, there are the circulating colds and flus, which many of us will experience in the months until the warmth of spring returns. So what are the best tips to prepare your immune system for cold weather and holiday gatherings? Read on.

Immunity is the result of a vast array of tiny warrior immune cells in our bodies, responding to the various microbes we encounter. In order to perform well, our immune systems require a number of nutrients, such as vitamins A, B6, C, E, zinc, selenium, folic acid, iron, and copper (Harvard Health Publishing, 2021). Those of us living in the northern hemisphere are also prone to vitamin D deficiency, particularly through the winter months.

When it is possible to obtain sufficient nutrients from food, that is the best recommendation. Interestingly, nature often provides the most appropriate foods for the time of year, so here are some cooking, snacking, and beverage ideas for immune support.

  1. Squash: Butternut, pumpkin, and other orange and yellow squash varieties contain carotenes, which are precursors to vitamin A. They also contain vitamin C, along with the minerals potassium and magnesium. Squash can be roasted, put into soup, used in lieu of pasta (spaghetti squash), or made into warm or cold salads. As a bonus, keep pumpkin seeds, toss with a bit of oil and your favourite herb blend, and roast until brown. Those seeds are also packed with valuable nutrients.
  2. Kale: Kale is often considered a superfood because of its abundance of micronutrients, particularly antioxidants. Note that other dark green leafy vegetables are similarly recommended. Kale contains significant amounts of vitamin C, B6, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Kale chips are a snack that is easy to make, crunchy and seasoned, and an extremely user-friendly way to eat a bunch of kale. Other ideas include adding kale to soups, vegetable casseroles, stews, or salads.
  3. Citrus fruits: Lemons and oranges are high in vitamin C, a vital antioxidant. Note also that hot water with lemon and honey (raw honey is best) serves as an excellent option for both health maintenance and for recovery if you do feel under the weather. It’s also delicious.
  4. Sweet potato: Remember the carotenes in squash? Sweet potato has them too. It’s great baked, roasted, in stews or casseroles, or just plain boiled.
  5. Garlic: Garlic is a naturally antimicrobial food, so as long as you tolerate it, use it liberally in fall and winter cooking.
  6. Green Tea: Need something warm to sip that’s also an immune booster? Try green tea. It contains the compound EGCG, a strong antioxidant. Matcha, which is made by grinding the whole green tea leaf into powder, is even stronger in antioxidant activity.

For those who are unable to get enough nutrients from food, a vast array of customized tinctures, vitamin & mineral supplements, and IV therapies are available. Remember that the best treatments for you are determined together with your naturopathic doctor, in consideration of your particular health issues, allergies, medical condition(s), and nutritional needs. We spend years studying the effects of supplements on health, so that you don’t have to. Immunity doesn’t work in one way, and neither do we.

To book a consultation with one of our Naturopathic Physicians, call 604-949-0077