Now that winter is here, the time has come for sneezes and sniffles. When spring turns to fall, it becomes everyone’s mission to prevent runny noses and sore throats. Our body’s immune can often become weak, and with the cold and flu virus spreading faster during the winter months, it is our job to make sure we keep our bodies running in the best shape possible.
“Vitamins A, B, C, D, selenium, and zinc have been studied for their role in immune system health,” says holistic nutritionist Aziza Meghjee. The best way to combat illness is to boost your immune system, and the most effective way to do that is by following a healthy diet.
Meghjee also says, “There is evidence that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables does in fact boost the immune system because of their high phytonutrient content.” Phytonutrients are plant-based chemicals that have been linked with disease prevention. Although phytonutrients are not necessary for survival (like vitamins and minerals), they are critical to the health of your immune system. Foods with phytonutrients include nuts, tomatoes, watermelon, kale, red wine, and pomegranates.
In addition to a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, these five superfoods can help kick-start your immune system before flu season hits.
Fish: This may come as a surprise, but fish is important in maintaining a healthy immune system. Oily fish like salmon and tuna are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help your body combat inflammation to keep your immune system in top shape. If incorporating fish into your diet becomes tedious, consider fish oil supplements.
Garlic: If you’re a garlic lover, you’re in luck! Garlic naturally produces allicin as a means of protection from insects and fungi, which means it has the same barrier effect against not only cold and flu viruses, but also against all viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. If you’re not a fan of the intense smell and flavour of garlic, chop it–don’t mash it–when incorporating it into your food.
Yogurt: Yogurt contains probiotics, which are essentially bacteria that are beneficial to the human body. Probiotics promote a healthy digestive system by producing lactic acid, which helps your body break down complex compounds you ingest. A lack of good bacteria in your diet makes it difficult for your body to absorb the nutrients necessary to keep your immune system in good shape.
Sunflower seeds: These tasty seeds contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cell walls. They also provide a good source of vitamin C and zinc, a mineral that improves immune system health by fighting infections. If you’re not one to snack on these crunchy seeds on their own, try sprinkling them in your salad or hiding them in baked goods.
Milk: It is well known that vitamin D is abundant in milk, which helps our bones maintain their strength. Many of us do not get a proper amount of this important vitamin from sunlight, so it is important to include it in your everyday diet to help boost your immune system. “Eating a whole-food diet along with probiotics and vitamin D helps support immune health,” says Meghjee. Vitamin D activates the body’s immune cells, thereby aiding the body’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses.
Any of these foods can be found at your local grocery store. While on the Danforth, try The Big Carrot (348 Danforth Ave.) for their non-GMO, organic products.