Your first line of defence against winter nasties is a tough-as-nails immune system. While there’s so much in life you can’t control, you do have control over what you buy, cook and eat.
This is great news because, really, it all starts with food.
When your diet is rich in powerhouse foods, every cell in your body is primed to fight bacteria and viruses that cause illness and disease, especially when others are sick and coughing near you.
To reap those feel-good rewards, aim to include a wide, colourful variety of different foods every day. Mix it up, experiment, step outside your comfort zone. Incorporate these nine foods as a springboard into your most well winter ever.
One of nature’s most perfect foods, avo is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and powerful antioxidants including vitamins E, K and B6. Its subtle taste and creamy texture make it super-versatile – spread a spoonful on whole grain toast with black pepper, add to salads and smoothies or scoop it straight into your mouth.
Immune boosters par excellence, mushrooms contain a host of beneficial minerals and compounds that do battle against everything from the common cold to iron deficiency, high cholesterol, blood pressure and cancer. Mix up your mushies for maximum results and flavour! Along with plain old buttons, try shiitake, enoki, oyster and Swiss brown.
Also known as ‘forbidden rice’, this minimally processed grain contains high levels of the super-antioxidant anthocyanin, which may protect against free-radical damage and inflammation. It may also protect the body from heart disease and memory loss.
As if you needed a reason to eat chocolate...but be sure to go dark. Good quality dark chocolate, with at least 70 per cent cocoa, contains high levels of protective antioxidants. It also has iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. Add a couple of squares to your day, as much for the good health benefits as because, well, it’s chocolate!
A simple bowl of oats provides key immune- boosting minerals including zinc, selenium and iron as well as beta-glucan, a type of fibre with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Avoid the too-sugary instant kind and prepare oats the old-fashioned stovetop way for best results. Add blueberries, yoghurt and chia seeds for extra yum.
Probiotic yoghurts with live, active cultures help keep your digestive system happy while also aiding the immune system. We love Danone’s Activia range with its exclusive Bifidus ActiRegularis probiotic strain and yummy flavours. Eat it alone or mix with fresh berries and muesli.
Sip a cup of homemade bone broth every day, or use in place of store- bought stock in hearty, warming soups. It’s rich in immune- boosting minerals and awesome gut-healing compounds such as collagen and glutamine.
Make it: Buy 2kg of bones (oxtail, beef, marrow) from your butcher. Preheat oven to 230°C. Liberally sprinkle bones with salt and pepper, line an oven tray with baking paper then roast bones for 20 minutes. Put bones in a large saucepan or slow cooker, add chopped carrot, celery, onion, garlic, leek peppercorns and fresh parsley, bay leaves and thyme. Cover with 12 cups of water (ingredients ned to be covered). Bring to the boil then simmer slowly, covered, for 8-12 hours. Strain broth through a fine sieve then discard bones and vegies. Set aside to cool then refrigerate in containers. A good bone broth will jiggle like jelly when cold. Then heat, sip and heal daily.
During the cold and flu season, eating salmon a couple of times a week could do you a power of good. Packed with immune- boosting vitamin E, proteins, essential omega-3s and calcium, salmon makes a quick and easy dinner.
Make it: For a no-mess, fuss-free meal, put a salmon fillet in the centre of a large piece of foil. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, cracked pepper and chilli flakes. Lay a helping of green beans or sliced zucchini on top. Seal the packet, put on an oven tray in an oven preheated to 205°C and bake for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy with a lovely glass of red (for more antioxidants!)
See also baby spinach. Dark leafy greens are low in kjs, packed with fibre and loaded with disease-fighting vitamins and minerals. Make it a rule to add green to every meal. Sauté in coconut oil and serve with eggs for brekkie, whip up a green smoothie with almond milk for lunch, throw into a stir-fry at dinner.
Make it: Kale chips. Wash and dry a bunch of kale and tear into bite-sized pieces. Arrange on a large baking tray, lightly mist with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and garlic powder or paprika. Bake at 175°C for 10 minutes or until edges are crispy. Yum!