Written by Sarah Kellett, nutritional therapist and Wild Oats Advisor
T. 077 888 32 889
With the warmth of this year’s summer behind us and our best source of vitamin D becoming scarcer, our immune systems become more exposed and vulnerable to attack. This is the time to give our bodies a little extra support through our choice of foods and in some cases supplements too.
NUTRIENT-RICH OODS TO SUPPORT IMMUNITY & WELL-BEING
A healthy, balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals can help support immunity and well-being. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a ‘rainbow’ diet full of colourful fruits and vegetables. The most recent guidance suggests a minimum of seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Including foods which are rich in the following nutrients will help you to stay healthy and happy and will help to reduce your chances of catching a winter cold:
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is water soluble so is not stored in the body. This means we must have a regular intake to stay healthy. It boosts immunity and if you are unlucky enough to catch a cold it has been shown to reduce the duration and severity. Foods containing Vitamin C are anti-viral and anti-bacterial. They strengthen collagen and connective tissue helping to prevent pathogens from spreading between organs and body tissues. Vitamin C is also an anti-oxidant so helps to eliminate free radicals (toxins) from the body.
Foods rich in Vitamin C include: kiwi fruit, parsley, kale, lemons, oranges, blackcurrants, watercress and peppers. Vitamin C should be topped up daily.
Zinc is required by the thymus gland to manufacture white blood cells (T-cells) which fight pathogens.
Zinc rich foods include: peas, sardines, tofu, oats, cashew nuts, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for immunity and unfortunately during the winter months we don’t get enough as it is synthesised from sunlight.
It is difficult to get sufficient Vitamin D from dietary sources so I would recommend taking a supplement if you suffer with frequent colds.
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A is antiviral and is important for the health of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, mouth and lungs. These membranes are often the body’s first contact with invading pathogens so it’s important to keep them healthy. Foods high in Beta-carotene are converted to Vitamin A in the body.
Good sources of vitamin A include: carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, eggs, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, squashes and red and yellow peppers.
SUPPORTING YOUR DIGESTIVE HEALTH
It’s also worth knowing that a healthy immune system relies on a healthy digestive system. This is because the gut contains a large portion of our immune cells.
Fibre helps to keep the digestive tract healthy so it is sensible to include whole grains such as brown basmati rice, oats, quinoa and buckwheat to your diet. Also include foods such as nuts, pulses and legumes to your nutrient rich fruit and vegetables.
Maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract is necessary to allow proper digestion of food and this also helps to support a healthy immune system. A good quality probiotic can help to fight off colds and other nasty bugs and is a sensible choice for those who are taking or have taken prescribed anti-biotics.
Last but not least, Garlic is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, so has a very positive effect on health. It also keeps the vampires away!
To compliment your good diet…
- stress reduction
… are all important ways to remain healthy during the winter months.
Aim for at least 7 hours sleep a night and try to do aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. Yoga, meditation or other breathing exercises aid relaxation.
HELPFUL SUPPLEMENTS FOR IF YOU DO GET A COLD!
If you do succumb to a cold this winter try using..
- elderberry extract
Immune-boosting stew recipe
1 carrot, diced
1 sweet potato, diced
1 red onion, diced
½ butternut squash, peeled and diced
Large handful of kale, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
1 cup of red lentils
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 (or more) cloves of garlic
Handful of chopped parsley
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 dessert spoon coconut oil
1sp each of dried thyme and basil
½ tsp dried coriander
Salt and pepper
- Fry the vegetables (apart from the kale) and garlic in the coconut oil until the onion has browned and the vegetables have started to soften
- Add the stock, lentils, tomatoes and herbs and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat with the lid on for 25 minutes then add the kale and most of the parsley (save some for serving)
- Continue cooking for a further 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked, making sure there is enough water. You can add more stock if it’s too thick.
*** This stew is even better the next day and can also be frozen.