With the threat of coughs and colds that circulate over winter, it is vital that you boost your immune system to give yourself a fighting chance to stay healthy.
Nature cleverly provides us with an abundance of nutrient packed fruits and vegetables, so I hope that you have gorged yourself on strawberries or enjoyed lots of raw fruit and vegetables in smoothies or salads as your body will thank you for it when it needs extra supplies of vitamin C and antioxidants to fight off infection.
There are plenty of things that you can do NOW to help improve your immune system this winter.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for your immune system:
1. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and the sprout are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Preserve as much goodness as possible by serving them lightly steamed.
2. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, both of which are immune boosters. In fact try to have five or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables each day, aiming for different colours to get a good range of phytonutrients; use purple cabbage instead of white, use mixed peppers rather than just red or yellow, or serve sweet potato mash instead of standard white potatoes. Choose fresh, organic produce as it has more of the vitamins and antioxidants that our bodies need, as well as less of the pesticides and chemicals that further tax a struggling immune system.
3. Eat plenty of eggs, quinoa, nuts, onions and garlic. These foods all contain cysteine, an amino acid that directly affects the immune system. Cysteine is converted by the body into glutathione; an antioxidant that protects us from toxins (from food, air and water). Glutathione performs vital functions for your immune system: it helps immune cells to make the chemicals they need to kill invaders amongst other things. High cysteine levels are associated with health, longevity and a reduced risk of cancer.
4. Include lots of garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric in your cooking. These ingredients not only add flavour but are all anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Which is worse – onion breath or a red, running nose!
5. Keep your fluid intake up. If three litres of water a day seems unappealing, try soothing herbal teas like peppermint or lemon and ginger (either fresh root ginger slices and lemon juice or a teabag to save time; available from supermarkets).
6. Top up your dietary intake of key nutrients that help maintain a healthy immune system with a high-potency multivitamin supplement.
7. As well as a multivitamin I like to take extra vitamin C through the winter. The amount needed by the body increases dramatically when it is under attack by bugs or viruses. Zinc also plays a vital role in maintaining your immune power along with potent herbal antioxidants Bilberry and Cat’s Claw Bark. Also take extra Vitamin D. The “sunshine vitamin” is in short supply during the winter as our body creates it from sun light via the skin. This can have a big impact on our mood and vitamin D deficiency is a major factor in S.A.D.
8. Splash out on shiitake mushrooms. They are rich in a special polysaccharide called lentinan which boosts immune function.
9. Glutamine can boost your immune system, an amino acid that is needed for immune cells to multiply and mature and stay fighting fit. During infections and traumas, such as surgery or burns, glutamine gets used up at a rapid rate. Supplementing it is best as it is quickly destroyed by cooking. It can be bought as a tasteless powder, and a heaped teaspoon (5g) a day can make a difference to the immune system.
10. Echinacea and Black Elderberry have also proven very effective. Echinacea is a well known winter remedy, and is best taken either as capsules of the powdered herb (2000mg a day) or as drops of a concentrated extract (usually 20 drops three times a day). Elderberries not only contain the high levels of antioxidants found in all berries, but they have also been proven to have immune protecting properties. Echinacea and Black Elderberry is a useful herbal immune supplement to have at hand that combines these two potent substances.
Look after yourselves and keep Strong and healthy!