Are you sick of taking sick days? Is your immune system battling and rattling? Do you need to add some munitions to your immunity? If this sounds like you, I’ve got you covered.
There’s nothing worse than trying to power through the day when you have a sniffle, scratchy throat, or throbbing headache that would give a jackhammer a run for it's money .
While there are a gazillion cold and flu tablets on the market, I’ve found that one of the best ways to improve your immune system is through diet. Eating fresh and unprocessed foods containing essential micronutrients and cutting back on alcohol, sugar and processed foods, will help look after your immune system and give it the kickstart it needs.
Today I’m sharing the low-down on how to keep bugs at bay and give your immune system some loving, to keep it functioning well and to keep you in tip top shape.
When we’re not at our optimal health, our immune systems struggle to keep up. If you have chronic stress, digestive issues or a poor diet, the first place to look is inside and the question to ask yourself is how is my immune system travelling and what can I do to improve it?
Some basic principles to uphold for general wellness include:
- Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
- Finding ways to manage stress.
- Eating good-quality and fresh ingredients.
- Including exercise into your routine.
- Enjoying a moderate amount of time in the sun to increase Vitamin D levels.
As with the whole body, the health of your immune system relies heavily on the health of your digestive system, in fact the gut has its own immune system. Immune cells are allies with good gut flora and they work together to keep you healthy.
Your gut is your first entry point for pathogens and bacteria, and the good flora that resides in your gut helps to reduce harmful substances from entering, and being absorbed through the gut lining, it also regulates and stabilises your digestion and trains your immune system to communicate with your brain.
When we’re talking about immune boosters, they will often also include foods that are great for our gut health. If you need a hand with this one, you’ll definitely want to grab my book, Supercharge Your Gut.
If you need an extra boost, there are specific things that you can eat to help your immune system along. Antioxidant-rich foods help fight oxidative damage and free radicals, reducing our risk of disease. Vitamin A, C and E are our antioxidant fighters. Berries are an example of a delicious antioxidant-rich food as it’s high in Vitamin C. Berries are also low in sugar and delicious.
As a blogger I’m not meant to have a favourite, but my Raw Chocolate Tart with Berry Sauce definitely takes the cake as my favourite berry recipes.
Other antioxidant-rich foods include leeks, garlic, onion, eggplants, grapes, pumpkins and carrots. Try including these foods at least once a day to receive the benefits. My prebiotic tray bake is a great one to enjoy for both prebiotics and fibre.
Now that we’ve fought off oxidative damage, it’s time to look at controlling inflammation. Consuming anti-inflammatory rich foods is essential when it comes to the immune system. To ensure you’re eating enough anti-inflammatory rich foods, up your intake of vegetables and fruits.
The aim is to include at least five different vegetables a day, but I say, the more the merrier. One of my favourite anti-inflammatory ingredients is turmeric. I add it to everything. Seriously. The compound in turmeric known as curcumin holds a plethora of benefits. If I have a cold coming on, my go-to is my Anti-inflammatory toddy and another scoop of Golden Gut Blend. Or try this Golden Gut nice cream. Here are some more ways to use it too.
I like to think of zinc as the absolute underdog of the immune system pyramid. Eating foods rich in zinc is vital when it comes to looking after your immune system, as well as your gut. Foods rich in zinc include grass-fed beef, oysters, lamb, activated pumpkin seeds and spinach. My Supercharged Moussaka is a one-stop shop for all of your zinc needs (you can do lamb or lentil, your choice and they are both zinc-afied!)
My final tip for kick-starting your immune system is to stay hydrated. Water helps carry oxygen around the body to specific cells, which ensures it functions optimally. It can also help remove toxins from the body, having a positive impact on the immune system.
For an extra immune hit, try warm lemon water in the morning first thing - if you're concerned about your teeth, just drink it through a straw to not destroy your enamel. The Vitamin C, and potassium and folate in the lemon will help to boost your immune system.
Aim for at least 1-2L of water a day and more if you’re exercising, sweating or breast feeding. You can also make multi-coloured smoothies or soups using a food processor.
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, my ultimate immune-boosting recipe. Garlic, sweet, sweet garlic. Garlic has been coined as a natural antibiotic, fighting off germs and viruses due to its antiviral and antimicrobial properties, and it's a promising candidate for maintaining homeostasis of the immune system.
Check out my Roasted Garlic Bisque from my supercharged book all about gut health, Supercharge Your Gut.
Roasted garlic bisque
This thick, creamy, garlicky darling will provide comfort and beckon you to stop, rest and enjoy. Garlic is a wonder ingredient for rebooting your immune system, which may be compromised in cases of digestive issues or autoimmunity. The crushed macadamias add texture, but they’re optional.
- 4 garlic bulbs, unpeeled
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/14 cup) extra virgin olive or coconut oil (or oil of your choice)
- 1 brown onion, roughly chopped
- 1 leek, white part only, washed well and roughly chopped
- 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) good-quality chicken stock or bone broth, such as the Gut-Healing Turmeric Chicken Broth
- 3 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 free-range egg yolks
- 2 pinches of ground nutmeg, or to taste
- 100 g (312 oz) macadamia nuts, dry-roasted and roughly chopped or crushed
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Cut about 5 mm (1/4 inch) off the tops of the garlic bulbs to expose the cloves. Place the garlic bulbs in a small baking dish, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and toss to coat. Turn the garlic cut side up, then cover the dish tightly with foil.
Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the garlic skins are golden brown and tender.
Leave to cool, then squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and leek for 3–4 minutes, or until softened.
Add the roasted garlic, stock and parsnip. Reduce the heat to low, then cover and simmer for about 30–35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Leave to cool slightly, then purée the soup using a food processor or hand-held stick blender.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks. While the soup is still warm, and with the food processor or blender still running, add the egg yolks and whiz until combined.
Season to taste with the nutmeg, and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If you need to warm the soup to serve, stir gently over low heat until heated through, but no longer than 1–2 minutes, or the yolks will curdle.
Ladle into bowls, top with the macadamias and parsley and serve.