Written by: Jen Cox - AdvDip NAT + WHM. @keeperandkin
While we hunker down in preparation to protect the more vulnerable members of our community from colds, flus and infections - spare a thought for your own immune system. Ensure that these 5 immune boosting foods make it onto the shopping list and your body’s defence system will love you for it.
1. Frozen berries
From blackberries to acai - Berries are known for their high vitamin C content and impressive levels of antioxidants… a true darling of the immune system. They’re also lower in sugar than many other fruits, which is great because research suggests eating a high sugar diet can pop your white blood cells into a temporary food coma. Sugar will even compete with vitamin C for access to those sleepy fighter cells. Before you wipe all fruit from the nom nom list remember to consider the food as a whole - generally, removing processed foods and drinks is a much better option than avoiding the fruit section.
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to frozen berry options but if you want the cream of the crop, consider trying Wild Blueberries. These babes are waaaay high up on the antioxidant scale so will give some major bang for your buck in smoothies, added to yoghurt with a scoop of PONO or on top of a chia seed pudding.
Store them: Anthocyanin - one of the more common antioxidants your immune system craves and berries just so happen to have in spades - freezes quite well, thank you very much. This means you can keep a tightly sealed pack of berries, frozen, for around 10-12 months.
2. Root vegetables
Beetroot is a great source of vitamin C and Iron, which is great because Iron deficiency anaemia is one of the most common causes of fatigue and poor non-specific immunity in women of childbearing age.. If you’re stocking up - don't forget to wash and use the leaves! Research notes that beet leaves offer antiviral properties. Try washing, chopping and freezing the leaves for use later, or adding them to batch cooking (think curries, sauces and other one pot wonders.) You can give this treatment to other leafy greens like spinach or kale too.
Store them: in a perforated bag the coldest part of the fridge as close to freezing (without actually freezing) as you can get it. These generally survive well in a crisper draw for up to a couple of months.
Fresh carrots are high in Beta Carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A has been found in studies such as this one here to be protective to the immune system. It can also reduce the severity of viral infections when we do catch them. Very handy indeed.
Store them: Unwashed, tightly wrapped in an airtight container in the coldest part of your fridge. Washing just before use will help keep those babies fresh for up to 3-4 weeks.
3. Lots of lemons
Lemons are high in vitamin C and provide anti-bacterial + anti-viral properties. The juice juice is also excellent to take with a large glass of warm water, daily first thing, to support healthy digestion. Because the majority of your immune system is based around the gut, keeping this zone humming along in cold and flu season is important. Need another reason to love it? Lemon water in the morning promotes an alkaline environment in the body overall, meaning you’ll be less susceptible to symptoms of inflammation from an infection.
Store them: refrigerated in a container for 3-4 weeks. If you want to extend the life of your lemons, freeze the juice in ice trays for up to 10-12 months.
4. Fresh garlic
Garlic is well known as one negative nancy. When added fresh - or at the very end of - your cooking process, it’s anti pretty much everything (anti-viral, antibacterial, antifungal) and has some exciting research done exploring the potential for immunomodulation. What this means is that garlic even has the potential to help increase or decrease the immune response - depending on your need for it. Nooice.
Store it: Think dry and dark for these babies. The back of a cupboard with some decent air circulation will keep garlic fresh for 3-5 months.
Zinc is a commonly deficient mineral needed for proper immune function and the nutritional data on chickpeas suggests that a cup of these golden nuggets will give you around 25% of your daily requirement in one go. Chickpeas also support melatonin production - a hormone required for the deep and restorative sleep our immune system craves to stay on the front foot.
Store them: If you've opted for tinned chickpeas, you can expect around 3-5 years shelf life, unopened. Once cracked you’ll need to pop them into a sealed container and refrigerate, which will have them staying fresh for a bit under a week. For dried chickpeas, keep sealed in a dark cupboard for 2-3 years. These will have a similar shelf life to the opened canned chickpeas once cooked and refrigerated.