If I asked you to name one nutrient to help boost your immune system, would I be right in guessing that your answer would be vitamin C?
Lemons are one of the first things that spring to mind when you think about fighting off a cold and vitamin C is a really important nutrient for your immune health, but it’s not the only one you need, there’s more!
Our immune system is a powerful tool and given the right fuel it works wonders for our health. Boosting immunity occurs via a collaboration of physiological processes that call upon different vitamins and minerals and I’ve had a nosy around my kitchen to find some amazing everyday nutrients that will help you to boost your immunity and fight off the winter cold:
Ginger is a bit of an all-round winner when it comes to health benefits. It’s not only got a wonderful pungent and warming flavour, but it contains two key elements gingerol and shogaol that are key to inhibiting reactions that cause pain, fever and inflammation. Fresh ginger can be sliced and added to hot water with lemon, grated into porridge or added to juices, smoothies and curries.
Oats are an unlikely ingredient when you think of immune boosting foods, but their important role in maintaining optimal gut health is a crucial part of the immunity process. Oats are a prebiotic food that produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) through a fermentation process in the gut and a really important mechanism of SCFAs is their ability to defend against infection and a bowl of oats for breakfast, makes for the perfect winter warmer.
In season throughout the winter months, pineapple is not only are a good source of vitamin C increasing immune support, but they feature an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain is found throughout pineapples but in larger quantities in its core. It increases absorption and digestion of nutrients stimulating immune response as well as reducing mucus, which if you do catch a cold will come in handy!
Just one tablespoon of paprika smashes your daily vitamin A requirements. Paprika is packed with carotenoids that give it its deep red colour and more importantly its ability to activate immune boosting lymphocytes and antioxidant qualities. Paprika is great sprinkled over sweet potato wedges (a double whammy of vitamin A!) or added to curries and soups.
Last but not least in my top 5 is pumpkin and I’ve been a little bit sneaky here, because not only does fresh pumpkin have super immune-boosting benefits as a rich source of vitamin A, but so does it counterpart the pumpkin seed, so that might be 6 things you’ll find in your kitchen, but hey who’s counting?! Pumpkin seeds (AKA pepitas) are not only a kitchen cupboard staple, but are also fantastic source of Zinc. Vital for its ability to produce essential white blood cells, zinc will help you stand up in the fight against incoming germs.
By making small changes to your diet you can make a BIG difference to your health. Incorporating immune boosting foods into your diet every day is the perfect way to make sure you can fight off the winter cold this year and if you need a little kick start, check out my recipe for Sweet Pumpkin Porridge to help you say YES to immunity.
RECIPE: Sweet Pumpkin Porridge
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
½ cup of pumpkin puree
½ cup oats
1 tsp fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tsp maple syrup Method:
Using a saucepan add the coconut milk, pumpkin puree (see below) and stir on a medium heat until the mixture until blended together.
Then, add the oats, ginger and vanilla extract and stir thoroughly.
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan and dry toast the pumpkin seeds until lightly browned and remove from the heat.
Once your porridge mix is heated pour into a bowl, top with toasted pumpkin seeds and any other nuts/seeds you have in your cupboard (I also added some buckwheat, coconut and toasted hazelnuts).
Drizzle with maple syrup, serve and enjoy.
Chop approx 1-2 cups of pumpkin into small cubes and steam for approx 20 mins until soft and then place in a blender and blend until smooth. The puree can easily be made in advance, so you have it ready to add to your porridge. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AmySavage is a qualified Nutritionist (BHSc) who is originally from the UK and now loves to call Sydney her home. Aside from being obsessed with Sydney’s beaches, she loves all things nutrition and lifestyle and is on a mission to make nutrition advice and healthy eating available to everyone. Her top tips; it might sound simple, but drink more water and eat more fibre!