7 Foods to Boost your Immunity this Winter
By Stephanie Harris
Winter has hit, and every second man and his dog have started coughing all over the place! So, what can you do to give your immune system the best possible chance at staying healthy during these cooler months? Read on to find out…
- Citrus fruits
We’ve all heard it before – vitamin C is known for its benefits in “fighting off” the common cold, however this isn’t entirely accurate. There is yet to be sufficient evidence that proves vitamin C has any major impact on recovery from an illness, however – there is evidence for its benefits in reducing your risk of falling ill. Some cells in the immune system require the vitamin to perform their function, these include phagocytes which are responsible for engulfing some bacteria and smaller cells. Therefore, incorporating fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons into your diet each day can boost your immune system and help keep you healthy!
- Yoghurt with ‘live cultures’
Yoghurts (such as Greek yoghurt) that are labelled as having ‘live/active cultures’ are packed full of probiotics which promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system. Try buying the plain/natural Greek yoghurt varieties as the flavoured ones are generally packed full of sugar. If you wish to sweeten your yoghurt, try adding fresh fruits you enjoy and a little honey.
Garlic’s high concentration of sulfur combinations is responsible for its immune boosting effects such as maintaining equilibrium/balance in immune functions as well as stimulating our body’s “natural killer cell activity”, reducing our risk of developing colds and flus.
- Sunflower seeds and almonds
Both sunflower seeds and almonds are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant with an important role in regulating and maintaining immune system functions. As well as supporting your immunity, vitamin E is beneficial for heart health, and reducing inflammation within the body – so aim for 1-2 medium handfuls each day.
Some call it a ‘wonder food’ others despise it – regardless, the dark green leafy vegetable is packed full of vital nutrients that our bodies need including vitamins A, B12, C and K; folate, manganese and magnesium. Therefore, spinach is one of many dark leafy vegetables that that help to fight off infection as well as regenerate other antioxidants within the body keeping us healthy.
It is also important to remember that raw is best when it comes to spinach. The more you cook your spinach, the less nutrient dense it becomes – so add it to your salads, or at the last minute as a topper to your pasta!
Fun fact – the darker the colour of the berry (eg blackberries and blueberries), the higher the antioxidant concentration! Antioxidants are critical as they aid in fighting against circulating free radicals, and the associated negative impacts they have within our bodies, such as damaging cells.
The major constituent of turmeric is curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant impacts within our bodies. While it is not everyone’s favourite tasting spice – it is incredibly beneficial, so adding a little turmeric into your morning porridge, or over your roast vegetables can help in reducing overall inflammation in the body, and further bolster your immune system.
Whilst sleep is obviously not a food, it is one of (if not the) most powerful contributors to our health and wellbeing. Sleep is the most critical time for our bodies to heal and grow – meaning our cells have the chance to repair and our immune defenses have the chance to protect our bodies from any of the nasties that may be circulating. As well, sleep deprivation has been linked to reduced immune-cell number, function and production. Each night, aim for roughly 7-9 hours of sleep, and if this isn’t possible – make the time for a daily nap, so your body can rest and help keep you going!
I hope these food (and sleep) tips help keep you feeling fit and healthy throughout these winter months. And don’t stress – even if you don’t remember everything I have said, aim to eat the rainbow each day (meaning eat lots of different coloured fruit and veggies), and you will be just fine!
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