We’re already layering up and scoping out activities near a heater, with the coldest days still to come! This season is a call to action for nourishing wholly, flooding the body with clean, colorful plants and staying cozy and comforted with teas, herbs and superfoods to boost our immune systems.
Immunity is very much linked to what’s going on in your gut – since 80% of your immune system lives there. By eating more anti-inflammatory foods that are rich in vitamins and phytonutrients, you’ll be boosting the health of your gut flora, therefore supporting healthy immune function.
Here is a list of eight foods to nourish your body, boost your immunity and satisfy your comfort-craving taste buds this season.
An ancient nutritional powerhouse for a reason – turmeric does more than just make pretty functional lattes (although this is one way to get your golden dose of turmeric goodness!).
Turmeric is rich in antioxidants, the inflammation-fighting goodness that our vulnerable immune systems need, and it contains an active ingredient called curcumin. Curcumin is antiviral, antifungal and can help keep the immune system strong.
How to enjoy it: Pair your turmeric with black pepper to increase absorption of all the goodness. Make a turmeric latte by warming 1 cup of any milk of choice in a pot, add 1 teaspoon of turmeric, ½ tsp cinnamon and a crack of black pepper. Bring to a boil then once it cools, sip in wintery bliss. Or simply add turmeric to curries, rice or soups.
A source of plant-based protein and healthy fats, pumpkin seeds are also filled with zinc – an important mineral for staving off sniffles and sluggishness in the cooler season.
How to enjoy it: Sprinkle into stir-fries or smoothies, blend into a pumpkin seed pesto, or add a tablespoon to your warming morning oats. Enjoy a piece of at least 75% dark chocolate in the afternoon (you have our permission), or roast up some chickpeas for a salad or curry to help store optimal levels of zinc in the body.
Ayurvedic medicine has relied on ginger’s ability to boost immunity for centuries. A natural anti-inflammatory, painkiller and diaphoretic (a compound that induces sweating), ginger is used to reduce fever, cold and flu symptoms, as well as indigestion, stomach ache, headache and sore throat.
How to enjoy it: In a tea, freshly sliced and added to warm water with lemon, juiced with other nourishing roots and fruits like beetroot, carrot and apple, or chopped and added as a base to your favorite curry.
Thanks to its antibacterial properties, garlic is a well-known immune booster to ward off colds and flu and is a food that can easily be consumed on a regular basis.
How to enjoy it: Minced and cooked into a veggie-based pasta sauce, or blended raw with lemon, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil and a touch of honey to make a yummy salad dressing.
Warming the body from the inside out, this spice works to decongest by clearing mucus during a cold or flu. It also an anti-inflammatory.
How to enjoy it: Boil some cinnamon sticks for a soothing tea, add some cinnamon powder to any beverage or sprinkle into your oats or pancake mixture for a warming weekend treat.
Dark, Leafy Greens
If there’s one thing you can do to improve your health and wellness – throughout winter and beyond – it’s to eat more greens. Packed with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, dark green leafy veg are also a key source of compounds that help our immune systems communicate. They also boost the vitality of our beauty bits – hair, skin and nails – so don’t be shy to load up on kale, spinach, rocket, collard greens, Swiss chard or bok choy.
How to enjoy it: In Buddha bowls, tossed into pastas, soups, smoothies or juices or sautéed with garlic and onion.
“Happy gut, happy life.” Great for good gut health – fermented foods help keep your good gut bacteria nourished and thriving. Think tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, plain Greek or homemade yogurt and pickled veggies.
How to enjoy it: Sautéed tempeh added to stir-fries, miso in a salad dressing or soup, sauerkraut added to a sandwich or rice bowl, kimchi fried rice, papaya yogurt boats, and crunchy pickled veggies added to a poke bowl or served with hummus and guacamole as a snack.
Tomatoes and Other Red & Orange Foods
Vitamin C gets a lot of the glory when it comes to immunity, and although it can’t reduce the risk of getting a cold, it can help boost immunity and decrease the length of the symptoms.
In general, red and orange fruits and veggies are high in vitamin C – making it an easy visual reminder to include at least one red or orange food a day (think tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, papayas, mangoes and pineapples).
One medium tomato contains nearly 80 mg of vitamin C (according to the US National Institutes of Health – aim for around 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg per day for men).
This versatile fruit is delicious at any time of day, works well raw or cooked and is easy to incorporate into nearly any breakfast, lunch or dinner.
How to enjoy it: Cook chopped tomatoes, and reduce to a rich tomato sauce. Add to salads, roast with other veggies and add to a grain bowl. Slice and add to breakfast or lunch wraps.
Kylie Jane is a nutritionist and the founder of modern wellness brand, SANA Wellness. Kylie holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Physiology, studied Nutrition and Dietetics, and is professionally trained as a health coach through the New York-based Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
In 2020, Kylie founded SANA – a modern wellness brand focused on wellness from within. SANA’s articles and growing range of essential superfoods are designed to nourish and brighten body and mind daily.