Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The vibrant colors, the reminder that time is passing and things change. It's invigorating. Our schedules change, the pace picks up after luxuriating in the warmth of summer's long, lazy days. Our eating patterns change too. There is less time, less veggies grilling on the BBQ, more grab 'n go, less local and fresh fruit available. What better time to shore up your immune system so that you don't get tackled by a virus this winter season? Fortunately, there are seasonal foods that fight colds and flu.
Food can help or hinder. Here are my top 3 food suggestions for immune support:
1. All antioxidants – vitamins A, C, E, Selenium and Zinc:
What are antioxidants? Your body has a well-oiled health maintenance system. It's all about balance. Your body, as a function of a regular metabolic process will produce molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are produced in the body as by-products of normal metabolism and as a result of exposure to radiation and some environmental pollutants. Because they are highly reactive, when out of balance, they can cause damage at the cellular level. Weakened or damaged cells are implicated in a variety of diseases. Free radicals are normally neutralized by efficient systems in the body that include the antioxidant enzymes. In healthy individuals, a delicate balance exists between free radicals and antioxidants. That is why it is so important to ensure that your daily diet contains good sources of antioxidants. Think of antioxidants and free radicals as the yin and yang of your body's health maintenance system. The Angel and the Devil if you will.
So, what foods should you eat?
- Everyone thinks of vitamin C as a strong immune booster. Oranges come to mind when we think of vitamin C. Vitamin C is also found in: peppers, parsley, strawberries, broccoli, lemons, kale, tomatoes, squash, celery, and grapefruit.
- Vitamin A is also found in many of these foods, and also in sweet potatoes and carrots.
- Vitamin E is in olive oil, spinach, and sunflower seeds to name a few.
- Selenium is in Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds, and certain mushrooms. You can get your entire day's requirement of selenium by eating just two Brazil nuts.
- Zinc can be found in beef and spinach.
So, let fall be a reminder to eat vibrant colors – eat the rainbow, and your diet will be rich in antioxidants. The trick is to try and get 4-5 servings every day.
2. Garlic & Onions:
Garlic and onions are excellent cold and flu fighters. They contain sulfur which is a powerful antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-viral that works with vitamin C to help keep the immune system in great shape. Roast fresh garlic and keep it on hand to add to…well…anything. Soups, salad dressings, etc. Same really with onions. They add flavor and texture to so many great meals.
3. Lemon water with a touch of raw honey and ginger:
Lemon – lemon is naturally detoxifying, and is also a great source of vitamin C.
- Raw Honey – Raw honey is a triple threat. It is filled with live enzymes that help build immunity strength, assist in digestion, and fight off seasonal allergies.
- Ginger – Ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger has also been used for centuries to alleviate digestive distress. Happy intestines, happy immune system.
This is a wonderful drink to have on a regular basis, to boost your immune system, but it is particularly useful when you feel yourself on the brink of a cold. You know that feeling, when your head is heavy and you can't keep your eyes open? Next time you feel that way, try this recipe:
Shift Nutrition Immune Boosting Lemon Ginger Tea:
2 cups water
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced into small pieces
1 tbsp raw honey
On a stove-top, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add lemon, ginger and honey. Bring to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Pour into a cup, let it cool down a bit and drink it up!
Pressed for time? Boil water in a kettle and pour into a cup with the lemon, ginger, and raw honey. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
Image via J. Triepke