Boost Your Winter Immunity

The weather forecast is for colder weather to come in the next few weeks, so get your store cupboard stocked with some winter essentials to help keep your immune system in check.

Here are my top ten immune boosters:

  1. Elderberry is one of the most potent immune boosters known and has been used for generations to treat flu, cold and sinus problems. It is packed with potent antioxidants and has been reported to have anti-viral properties against the flu virus and herpes simplex. One study demonstrated that taking elderberry at the onset of flu symptoms showed relief 4 days earlier than those who did not take it.
  2. Turmeric is the latest food getting ‘super-food’ attention, and with good reason. This spice is one of the richest sources of antioxidants and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient is called curcumin, associated with anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-cancer effects. One of the key ingredients in any good curry, turmeric really does seem to deserve it’s super-food status!
  3. Mushrooms could be the answer to boosting your immune system. We are familiar with the knowledge that exotic mushrooms like shiitake and reishi have health benefits, but even the humble white mushroom could be an important ingredient on your shopping list for immune protection, with higher levels of copper, potassium and selenium than their more exotic cousins. Providing B vitamins, fibre and trace minerals, these little powerhouses of nutrition are also an important source of antioxidants
  4. Garlic is a tasty addition to your mushrooms and is known to help support immunity too. When garlic is crushed and allowed to stand for 10 minutes, the medicinal properties of garlic are more potent, so crush your garlic before cooking and add at the end of the cooking time to maximise its potency. The sulphur-containing components of garlic have been shown to boost the disease-fighting effects of some types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses, like those that cause the common cold or flu. It also seems that eating garlic can help reduce the severity of symptoms and help you make a quicker recovery.
  5. Ginger is another culinary whizz kid when it comes to our immune system. Related to turmeric and cardamon, it is another store cupboard ingredient of any good curry recipe. Gingerol is the active ingredient that has been found to help fight infection, and fight colds and flus.
  6. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir are making their way into our diets thanks to their reputation as sources of our friendly gut bacteria. A healthy probiotic population can support immune function and evidence suggests that they are beneficial for preventing upper respiratory infections in adults and children.
  7. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, pack choi and brussel sprouts have an impact on how your immune system signals to your body that it is under threat. One study shows that after 2-3 weeks on a diet without vegetables, has a big effect on the cells that trigger and immune response.
  8. Blueberries were one of the most powerful immune boosters in one study of 446 different chemicals on the human immune system. Pterostilbene found in blueberries, when combined with vitamin D, is thought to boost the body’s ability to fend off illness. Hot tip – buy frozen at this time of year.  
  9. Red grapes were the other stars in the same study. The resveratrol found in red grapes has been credited with cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties. Again, in combination with vitamin D the effects seem to be highlighted.
  10. Green tea – a nice cup of (green) tea is a great source of polyphenols, potent plant antioxidants, believed to give green tea its immune-boosting effects. One laboratory study suggested that a particular type of polyphenols called catechins may kill the flu virus. so go on…

put the kettle on!