Is it just me or does it feel like we’re never truly prepared for winter? It’s like winter arrives and we’re always so shocked that our sun-loving country has turned wintery and cold. June has barely begun but winter has well and truly arrived in Australia and it’s safe to say it's fffreeezzzing.
Apart from the nippy weather, many of us start to notice change is in the air when the local chemist has started advertising flu vaccines to prevent seasonal influenza and more throats become scratchy and noses sniffly on our morning commute.
To stay on top of things this winter and become your own health ‘influenzer’, why not look towards supercharged foods to bulletproof your immune system? Rather than relying upon regular cold and flu medication, which can weaken your immune system’s ability to respond naturally to illness, try leaning towards natural ways to boost immunity and fight of colds and flu.
One of the first places to look when building immunity is your gut, where 70-80% of your immune tissue resides. Because your gut is often the first entry point for pathogens, you’ll want to ensure that you have enough friendly gut flora (the good bugs that are allies for immune cells) to prevent pathogens and infections from being absorbed through the gut lining.
As well as a healthy balance of microflora, you’ll want the gut lining to be robust to assist in nutrient absorption. The best way to ensure good gut health is to eat a diverse diet, filled with anti-inflammatory, fibre-rich, prebiotic and probiotic rich foods. Plus my Heal Your Gut powder.
This month I'd love to share some of my favourite foods that are wonderful for supercharging your winter immunity. The grocery items I’ve used are available at Sprout Market. You can find out more about Sprout Market here.
One of my must have natural medicine-chest items for winter immunity is turmeric. Whenever I use turmeric, I like to think of it as nature’s golden fairy dust. It has recently gained popularity and rightly so!
Turmeric’s dazzling golden colour is derived from curcumin, a natural antioxidant that helps fight off and repair damaged cells. Turmeric is also a powerful secret weapon when it comes to good health. I love using turmeric because it’s so versatile. You can enjoy this supercharged spice in anything from drinks, bakes, smoothies, curries, stir-fries to main meals.
Turmeric not only holds an abundance of antioxidants; it also has anti-inflammatory properties. An easy way to incorporate some turmeric this winter is to add it into hot drinks. If you haven’t tried it yet, you must get into my Anti-inflammatory Toddy Drink, a wonderful warmer for boosting your immune system and best of all, it tastes super delicious! If you’re willing to give up your morning coffee, this golden goddess is a serious pick-me-up. If you’re pinched for time in the mornings, Sprout has a coconut latte version here
And you can pick up the individual ingredients for the recipe too;
During winter, the days are shorter and the nights are longer (cue guitar solo here). Cold and early nights mean we can often become more susceptible to caving into unhealthy food cravings. A fast food diet comprised of takeaway food can lead to poor digestion. This means that when food is broken down by enzymes within your stomach and pancreas, some food molecules can still remain in your small intestine.
The small intestine is the place where nutrient absorption occurs. These molecules are then able to pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream, which can result in bloating, irritation, inflammation, fatigue, aches and most importantly, low immunity to colds and flu. A good way to help maintain the integrity of the gut is to eat an easily digestible diet with non-aggravating foods that don’t damage the lining of the gut.
Gelatin is one of my winter immunity boosting ingredients and an excellent source of special proteins, which help to seal the gut wall and greatly improve the integrity of the gut lining by restoring the mucosal layer. One of gelatin’s gut healing attributes is to absorb water and retain fluid in the digestive tract, which is required to promote transportation of waste and healthy bowel movements. When you optimize your gut health, this can also help with nutrient absorption.
A simple gut healing dessert to fill up on is my Almond Milk Jelly Cup. Generic vanilla custard can have your tummy doing backflips and somersaults, because of the refined sugar and cream, so in my recipe I use powdered stevia.
Some main meals to grab hold of to boost immunity and fight off colds and flu this winter are garlic filled tummy warming broths, soups and casseroles. These tasty recipes have become a staple in many households (mine included!) because of their numerous health boosting qualities.
At the heart of a tasty casserole is a homemade broth or stock. Want my supercharged tip? Make lots of broth and keep leftovers in the freezer, it can supercharge any dish for that restaurant quality finish.
Beyond adding delicious flavour and being used as the base of sauces, stocks, soups and stews, broths also act as a supercharged “tonic” and are wonderful for adding a dose of healing nutrientsperfect for empowering your health. You’ll love my Bestest ever roasted vegetable stock recipe please try it and let me know what you think! You enjo have it as a warming drink too.
Apple Cider Vinegar is a worthwhile component to any broth recipe, known for its ability to nurture the sick and nourish the body. Fats in meat-based broths pair well with vinegar since it helps to draw out all those valuable minerals in the bones into the broth. Raw apple cider vinegar is a good choice since it’s unfiltered and unpasteurized.
If you’re pressed for time, you can buy your own ready-made stock. Just be sure to check the ingredients list to make sure there are no hidden nasties! I’ve tried these stock mixes myself and love that they're made the traditional way, plus they’re delicious and nourishing all at once.
Pantry items to stock up on are;
Coconut is an ideal ingredient to boost the health of your digestive system. Coconut oil has wide-spreading medicinal quantities to improve immunity and it’s anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-microbial and has anti-bacterial properties.
The transition to winter has resulted in many simple raw meals being replaced with warmer, flavorsome comfort foods. Soups can be supercharged with a range of nutritious ingredients that’ll ensure your immune system is powered up whilst you remain cozy indoors, snuggled up on the couch.
If you haven’t had a chance to try my pumpkin and coconut soup, you should! It uses coconut oil as base along with garlic and onions, both well known for their immune boosting properties, next just add some pumpkin and coconut milk, ginger, stock and nutmeg; it’ as easy as pumpkin pie!
I’m using onion in the recipe as it contains significant amounts of quercetin – responsible for the protection and healing of damaged cells, as well as garlic which acts as a natural antibiotic. Ginger is a great immunity-boosting tool, to help to reduce fevers, soothe sore throats, and encourage coughing to loosen mucus from the chest. The chemicals, shagaols and gingerols responsible for that ginger kick when you eat it, are what help to stimulate blood circulation and open up sinuses allowing you to breathe more clearly.
Soup ingredients to add to your trolley are;
Fermented foods like kombucha are another beneficial way to increase your good gut bugs when your gut is healed, primed and ready. Not only is kombucha a delicious way to introduce some cultured foods into your diet, it also easily replaces any soft drinks.
Try my Homemade kombucha recipe. Or if you’re worried that the fermenting process is too much like a complex lab operation rather than a kitchen recipe (it’s really easy once you get into the flow of it!) and you simply don’t have the time, kombucha is offered in plenty of flavors and readily available in stores. My personal favourite is Remedy’s Ginger and Lemon.
I’d love you to try these supercharged ingredients for boosting immunity and let me know what you make with them!