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5 foods/beverages that boost your immune system

I recently shared with you some remedies to keep on hand when you feel unwell, but what about foods for prevention?

Today I'll be sharing my 5 fave foods and beverages that boost your immunity and prevent (or at least reduce the symptoms of) colds and flu viruses. 


#1. Spicy food

Using spices regularly in your meals is a great way to boost your immunity. Firstly spices aid digestion, and given that 80% of our immune system lives within our gut, we want out gut to be a happy place!

A second way spices help our immune system is by improving our circulation. The theory behind this is the better circulation we have, the more chance of nutrients reaching our cells. There are many other benefits (I'm only touching the surface here); spices are high in antioxidants and flavonoids, and many are wonderful at fighting pathogenic infections.

Spices I use regularly include:

  • Ginger (fresh or dried in teas, and in curries and stir-fries) 
  • Cayenne pepper (in a fresh herbal tea with ginger, lemon, turmeric)
  • Chilli - (on the BBQ with other veggies, stews, curries, stir fries basically everything!)
  • Turmeric (in fresh tea, stir-fries, curries, stews)
  • Cinnamon (tea, chai tea, with honey on toast, porridge, cakes, stews)

There are so many spices and spice blends to choose from. Experiment and have some fun with them. Let me know how you go :) 

#2 Garlic

Garlic technically belongs to point 1, however it is SO effective at repelling the bugs that it deserves a separate mention. There is a quote that says:

"Garlic can be used to cure every disease except the one it causes (bad breath!)"

Garlic can be used to help cure any disease; it's strongly antimicrobial, increases circulation, improves digestion, strengthens your immune system and even your heart health. It truly is an amazing spice and so easy to add to any meal. If you really don't like the bad breath that follows, try chewing on parsley afterwards :)

#3 Bone Broth

I wrote about broth in a recent post which you can read here. Simply, bone broth is incredibly nutritious and healing for your gut. The gelatin in bone broth aids digestion and has been successfully used in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including hyperacidity, colitis and Crohn's disease. I use bone broth to bolster my family's immune system in the winter by adding it to soups, laksa, curries and stews. I also heat it up and drink it straight as I love the taste. 

I super charge my broth with different herbs and spices, depending on taste and health benefit. Astragalus is a great addition to any broth as it is a very powerful herb for your immune system, and a must have for anyone who gets regular colds and flu, or seasonal allergies. Astragalus helps to modulate your immune system and prevent an inflammatory response. Astragalus does many other things too - like protect the heart and liver, but I'll dive deeper into this amazing herb in another post :)

#4 Fermented Foods

Fermented foods

Fermented foods and beverages have been used in many cultures for centuries as a way of preserving food and enhancing nutritional value. Fermentation is basically the process in which bacteria and yeast break down sugars.

The benefits of these foods are numerous, for starters, eating a range of fermented foods and beverages will provide you with a diverse range of healthy bacteria (gut flora). This in turn will help you to digest other foods, like meat, absorb more nutrients, neutralise and eliminate toxins/chemicals your modulate your immune system. When gut flora is healthy it trains your immune system to respond appropriately to prevent over-activity (allergies), under-activity (frequent illness) or attacking the self (auto-immune disorders).

Fermented foods my family regularly enjoy include

  • kombucha
  • kefir
  • beet kvass
  • miso

We occasionally have fermented veggies too, like kimchi. Most of these foods are available in health food stores these days, but with a little effort you can make them at home too. I make my own kombucha as it's relatively easy to do so, and I can control the quality of the ingredients and fermentation time. 

I love the Wholefood Family range of gut shots and beet kvass. They are local to Newcastle and the quality is second to none. 

beet kvass, by wholefood family        Wholefood family gut shots

A word of caution: fermented foods are potent - so moderation is key. It's best to treat fermented foods as medicine rather than food. If you've never tried them before, or you have gut issues, start with very small amounts. I only have a quarter cup of home made kombucha daily. There are trillions of healthy bacteria in this small amount so there's no need to take more. 

You can sometimes feel worse before you feel better with fermented foods. Think of it like you're doing a spring clean. Often your house looks worse in the midst of a clean but take the time to introduce these foods properly and your body will begin to feel better! 

#5 Fire Cider

Fire Cider is an old folk remedy and health tonic which is potent, and contains some amazing health benefits. The basic ingredients used are raw apple cider vinegar, onions, horseradish, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chilli, but you can add in citrus, and additional herbs and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, lemongrass, parsley and some honey to sweeten your brew.  

Taking a daily shot of this will surely boost your immune system and help fend off those nasty viruses all winter long!

Foods to avoid during the cold months

  • Limit your dairy as this can promote mucous in the body.
  • Limit raw foods as these foods are hard for the body to digest and have a cold effect on your body. 
  • Avoid sugar as it inhibits your immune system.

These are just my suggestions. Every body is different of course and you need to do what works for you.