Coming up to the winter season, it is important to strengthen your immune system to become resilient to external invasion from colds and flu’s. Your lifestyle may also be contributing to a weakened immune system, including the following:
- Unbalanced diet
- Poor environment
- Poor sleep
- Congested lymphatic system
- Long-term stress and extreme psychological stress
- Impaired intestinal micro-flora balance (digestive issues)
- Long term strenuous physical exercise
- Lack of exercise
- Overuse of drugs, including alcohol and smoking
Your immune system in an amazingly complex system that has the ability to protect your body from external invaders. It is comprised of organs including the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes as well as tissues and cells (including white blood cells.) As a Naturopath, I educate my clients about the amazing foods and herbs that natures provides us with to boost our immunity and reduce our risk of getting sick. Also, if you do get sick, these tips will help you get better faster.
Helpful foods include:
Bioflavonoid rich foods – cabbage, green peppers, parsley, carrots, broccoli, turnips, parsnips, horseradish, garlic, lemon juice, grapefruit, most fruits.
Avoid the following foods:
Refined sweet foods, salty foods, excess dairy, eggs or other mucous forming foods (Pitchford 2002, p. 69-70)
Immune Boosting Foods
Using food as medicine is a powerful way to support your immunity during winter. When your immune system is functioning well it reduces the chances of developing a cold or infection as well as reducing the length and severity of time that it take you to recover.
As well as eating more of these foods it is important to remember that you give your body time to rest, this means that you have time out and reduce stress (as much as possible!) to rest and ensure that you enough sleep. And of course drink lots of room temperature/warm water. Gargle with warm salt water for sore throat.
Having easier to digest foods such as stews, casseroles and congees (or any meal where all the ingredients are cooked in the one pot) means there is less strain on the digestive system and the nutrients in the food are absorbed by the body more effectively. Plain steamed rice and boiled eggs are also useful.
Vitamin C containing foods
- Sweet potato
- Red Chili peppers
NOTE: Vitamin C in foods are easily destroyed with heating, therefore ensure you include some raw foods eg oranges, pineapples and strawberries.
Zinc containing foods
- Mushrooms (inc. shitake)
- Whole grains
- Legumes (sprouted)
- Lima beans
- Nuts (Almonds, Walnuts and Hazel)
- Red Meat
Vitamin A containing foods
- Sweet potato
- Egg yolk
- Green leafy vegetables
Protein containing foods
- Whole grain
Harvest Minestrone With Quinoa & Kale (recipe courtesy of Silva Bianco)
Minestrone is a thick vegetable/bean soup, usually with the addition of pasta. It has a long history dating back to pre-Roman days, and it used to be made primarily with leftovers by poor families looking to stretch their food resources. It’s considered a part of la cucina povera, or poor kitchen. It evolved over the years, as any good recipe does, reflecting the economies and eating habits of the people making it, so I thought it fitting that I add quinoa (instead of pasta) and kale to this classic soup.
Don’t let all the ingredients scare you. All you’re really doing is chopping the veggies into a medium dice (about the size of popped corn) and putting everything in a big pot. It’s fast, easy and ready to eat in about 40 minutes without much fuss from you, and it’s good for more than one meal. Make a really big pot and freeze what you don’t use in quart containers. They last for months and will be a lifesaver when you can’t or don’t want to cook.
In celebration of this time of harvest, when fresh local vegetables are available almost everywhere, go explore the farmer’s markets, stop at farm stands, or just grab your favorite fresh veggies wherever you can, and make a minestrone. Express yourself!
- 1 sweet onion – medium diced
- 2 celery stalks – medium diced
- 3 carrots – medium diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil – or enough to cover the bottom of the pot
- 2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
- 2 cups fresh zucchini – medium diced (about 1 medium or 2 small)
- 2 cups green beans – cut in 1 inch pieces
- 1 bell pepper – medium diced
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 28-ounce cans of water
- 1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans
- 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups kale – stems removed
- 1 teaspoon turmeric (or to taste)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish with parmesan to taste (optional)
- Garnish with slivered basil or finely chopped rosemary
Place a large stockpot over medium heat and add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes or until softened.
Add the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook for about one minute or until garlic begins to colour.
Add the zucchini and the green beans, season with salt and pepper, add the turmeric, stir and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and the water, raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to medium/low and allow the soup to gently boil (uncovered) for about 20 minutes.
Add the quinoa and cover for 15 minutes.
Remove the cover, add the kale and the canned beans (more water if needed) bring back to a gentle boil and cook for another 5 minutes or just until the kale is tender.
Grate in the parmesan, add the basil and serve. (or do this for individual servings).
Cold and Flu Tea – this will reduce your symptoms and get you better faster
- Yarrow (Achillia millefolium) aerial parts 10g
- Elder (Sambuccus nigra) flowers 10g
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita) leaves 10g
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Fresh Ginger, a few slices
- Garlic clove, sliced
- Sprig of fresh herbs ie thyme, sage, rosemary
- Teaspoon of manuka honey
Infuse in 600ml of boiling water for 10-30 minutes
Stain and drink three small cups daily
(Adams & Tan 2006, p. 35)