Here in Victoria, B.C., It’s still cold and flu season and we’ve definitely been seeing evidence of it in our naturopathic office. Now is the time to fortify your immune system to help ward off bugs efficiently. Food is our number one defence against illness. Optimizing your diet means that you and your family will get sick less often, and if you do get sick, you will fight it off faster!
Here are some key suggestions for super-charging the diet for adults and children:
Eat Whole Foods! Eat real food, as close to natural as possible, nothing changed, nothing added, nothing taken away. This will provide the best quality of nutrients and the least amount of chemicals that cause your system to work harder.
Reduce/Eliminate Sugar: Sugar laden calories depress the immune system and block the infection fighting ability of white blood cells. Even natural sweeteners such as fruit juice and honey can contribute to this if consumed too often.
Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Veggies: To ensure the healthiest immune system we want a wide variety of plant micro-nutrients. Consume a wide variety and diverse colour range of plant foods, aim for at least three colours with each meal.
There are so many vital immune boosting nutrients that we get from plants, here are just a few and where to find them.
This vitamin helps to resist and fight infection.
Find in: Yellow, orange (yams, carrots, squash) and dark green veggies.
Helps to reduce symptom duration.
Find in: Red peppers, citrus, kiwi and broccoli.
This very important immune supporting nutrient is actually a hormone.
Find in: Other than sunshine, get Vitamin D from oily fish, butter and eggs.
A vital part of the memory portion of our immune system. Having adequate zinc may also help decrease the duration of infections.
Find in: Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, most beans and…cocoa!
Plant nutrients that block the harmful effects of free radicals (chemicals that damage our cells).
Find in: Apples, berries, legumes (especially the dark beans and lentils), garlic and onions.
Quality Protein with Every Meal/Snack. Protein is vital as a proper functioning basis of the immune system as well as healing and repair. Sources include meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, and dairy if tolerated.
Dairy: In many people dairy causes inflammation in the digestive tract, impairing our immune system’s function. It can also increase mucous production and phlegm. When you are sick it’s best to avoid most dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt).
Immune Support Recipes
Garlic Honey Lemonade
Garlic (Allium sativa): not only does garlic contain helpful antioxidants, it also exhibits a broad range antimicrobial properties (it fights off both bacteria and viruses). Garlic can help reduce the duration of colds and flu’s. In this way, raw garlic will be the most helpful.
This recipe is appropriate for adults or kids. You can play with the amounts of the ingredients to what suites yours/your child’s taste buds (however, the stronger the better!).
Finely mince 2 cloves of fresh garlic and place in 4 cup mason jar.
Fill jar with boiling water and cover for 30 minutes.
Strain out the garlic and add the juice of 1 lemon.
Sweeten to taste with honey.
Hot Ginger Lemonade
Ginger (Zingibur officinale): Ginger is warming and helps to fight bacteria and viruses associated with colds and flu. This recipe will help calm coughs and sooth sore throats
Grate lots (LOTS!) of fresh finger and put it in a mason jar. Add boiling water, the juice of 1/2-1 lemon. Let sit for 30 minutes, strain, add honey to taste and drink. Alternatively you can use a tea thermos with a built in strainer. This keeps the tea hot and lets the ginger sit so it’s more potent. Make lots and take it with you to sip on throughout the day.
This old fashioned remedy is back in style with good reason! Bone broth is rich in nutrients and wonderfully supportive for the immune system. Use it as a warm drink (with a little added salt) or as a base for a healing soup.
Purchasing Bones: look for organic pasture raised animals. You can use leftover bones from a roasted chicken or purchase bones from your local butcher. Bones can be raw or cooked, but roasting the bones in the oven first (30 min at 400 F) will provide a richer flavor. Adding chicken’s feet or a split pig’s foot to the pot will increase the gelatin content.
Vegetables and Herbs: classic vegetables to add include peeled carrots, onions (skin on) and celery. Other options include garlic, tomato, greens, leeks, celery root and parsley. I like to add greens to boost the bone building minerals in the broth. As for herbs: tie together a sprig of parsley, thyme with one or two bay leaves.
Fill a stockpot or slow cooker with bones, roughly chopped vegetables, herbs, and 2-4 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Add enough water to just cover the bones. Cover and cook on a low simmer for 4 (poultry) to 12 (beef) hours.
When your broth is finished you can remove the bones and meat pieces, and pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. If using fatty marrow rich bones, you may want to cool the broth and skim the fat off the top. Enjoy!