The colder months are well and truly upon us, and despite it feeling like summer just yesterday, I think we can all agree that Winter has definitely started to show it's face around here, especially in Melbourne!
Whilst the colder months are great for rugging up in front of the fire, enjoying warm drinks and copious amounts of comfort food (I'm looking at you slow-cooker), out come the sniffles, runny noses and head colds too.
After the year that was thanks to a certain global pandemic, most of our immune systems have taken quite a hit. With our most recent yet very necessary obsession with all things hand sanitising and cleanliness, our poor old immune systems aren't used to a germ or pathogen and are a little 'out of practise' when it comes to the most appropriate way to respond.
Thankfully, what we implement into our lifestyles every single day and most notably what we eat, can have a significant effect on the functioning of our immune systems.
Don't worry, you don't need to spend your money on fancy supplements or superfoods that claim to 'boost your immunity', because truth be told - they don't really work! The best thing you can do (aside from including these top immune supporting foods) is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and remember that no single food or nutrient alone can support the immune system in its entirety.
So without further-ado, here are 5 foods to include in your diet to help strengthen your immune system.
Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, an essential antioxidant in the diet that works to fight off free radical damage and unwanted pathogens. Other wonderful food sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes, tomatoes, kiwi fruit, capsicums and pineapple.
If fresh strawberries aren't available to you, frozen strawberries are just as nutritious and can be incorporated into smoothies, raw treats, porridge, baked goods and nutritious desserts.
Yoghurt is a source of protein, and as some of you may know, protein forms the structural component of every cell in our body - including those that make up our immune system. Additionally, yoghurt contains probiotics (beneficial bacteria), and since 70% of our immune cells are located in our gut, it makes sense that probiotic foods are imperative to supporting our immune function. You can also find probiotics in fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut and tempeh to name a few.
Oh, yoghurt is also one of the only food sources of Vitamin D too which plays a key role in our immune health.
When choosing a yoghurt, opt for a natural style unsweetened greek variety.
Lentils, legumes and pulses all contain Prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food or 'fuel' for the probiotics and help to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria that reside in our gut. Research shows that the greater amount of different beneficial bacteria species in our gut the greater the health outcomes!
Other prebiotic foods include wheat-based products, garlic, onion, leek, cashews, almonds, asparagus, apples and apricots to name a few.
It's no surprise that we are nuts about nuts here at KOJA! They are full of heart-healthy fats, gut-loving fibre and delicious plant protein to keep you satisfied. Additionally, nuts contain Zinc which is an essential mineral in our diet proven to support our immune health.
Boost your Zinc intake by grabbing yourself a nut-filled KOJA Peanut Butter Bar or include zinc-rich foods regularly in your diet such as meat, seafood, beans, nuts and seeds.
Look, it was too hard to pick one vegetable. We don't play favourites around here!
Vegetables in all of their quirky shapes, varieties and flavours contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and prebiotics to assist in supporting and strengthening our immune health. When it comes to vegetable consumption, variety is key! Aim to consume a varied range of colours to ensure maximum nutrient consumption.
Hot tip: Try one new vegetable every single week!
On an important note, let's keep this real. We are not suggesting that these foods will cure or prevent disease. With the current global pandemic, it's especially important to understand that no diet or food choices can provide immunity to viruses or disease.
Written by Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist, Millie Padula