Along with good quality rest, low stress, regular exercise and daylight, the best way to develop a strong and healthy immune system is to provide all the nutrients your body needs to support immune function.
There’s no substitute for good nutrition. In times of greater stress such as keeping warm, staying dry and battling with bugs, the rate of free radical production (which can be very damaging to the body if left unchecked), can go up, so we have to give the body extra help for the mopping-up operation. A good diet contains antioxidants, a class of nutrients that can prevent and repair such damage. Here are some tips for seasonal products that combine antioxidants with ‘comfort-eating’, something that we tend to hanker after when it’s chilly outdoors:
• Root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes are great sources of carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A; have them steamed or baked with a sprinkle of olive oil, lemon juice and herbs.
• A handful of almonds can provide almost half of your daily recommended amount of vitamin E which is vitally important for good skin health, as well as general immunity, through the winter months. Eat them as a snack or lightly crush them and sprinkle on soups or stews for added texture. Better to soak nuts in pure, filtered water a few hours before using.
• Button mushrooms contain selenium, and B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, which are all known to play a role in a healthy immune system, so try some lightly sautéed on rye toast for breakfast.
• A really powerful antioxidant known to help strengthen the immune system in its battle against infections is Glutathione. It can be found in many foods, but cabbage is an excellent seasonal and inexpensive source; so add cabbage to your soups and stews.
• Onions & garlic contain several antioxidants that help the immune system battle against seasonal invaders. When cooking with these, peel, chop and then leave them for 10-15 minutes to allow activation of their immune boosting properties. Add raw garlic to soups and stews, after they have finished cooking.
• Frozen fruit, although not in season, can be a brilliant source of antioxidants. Try them heated gently over porridge or with oats & yoghurt.
White sugar, caffeine and alcohol can suppress the immune system, and foods high in trans-fats can clog up the lymphatic system, limiting the body’s ability to clear infection, so limit or avoid consumption to give your body a break.