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Beating the Winter Cold and Boosting Immunity

Winter is the time of the year that is dreaded by most. It’s dark in the morning, dark at night, the days are short and it’s cold, and more than likely you or someone in your family will get sick at some stage. Ensuring your diet is on point is essential to staying on top of colds and flus that are going around. If you stay well nourished by eating well; exercise and sleep well, you will be on the right track to stay healthy.

Individuals who live in poverty and have limited to access to good food are malnourished and more vulnerable to disease and infection. The same is true in the Western world – if your diet is lacking in variety and micro- or macronutrients, you a likely malnourished, just not in the same way as those in poverty, however, this still leads to a decreased immune system. If you think that your diet is insufficient in one way or another, talk to your Dietitian and they can guide you as to how to boost things up, or a quality multivitamin is a good place to start.

Fruit and vegetables are the key during the colder months. These are the foods that are packed full of vitamins and minerals, which assist in keeping you healthy. And while there isn’t a plethora of delicious berries, stone fruits and melons like there are in Summer, it is still just as important to ensure you have your 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day.

Foods that can help to boost immunity:

  1. Citrus foods – there’s no coincidence why oranges, mandarins, lemons and limes are in season during Winter. It’s like the world knows that this is the time of the year that these foods are needed in the diet. Citrus along with red capsicum are a great source of vitamin C, which is thought to boost the production of white blood cells, helping to fight infections. Vitamin C is not stored in your body, so you need to have some everyday to help keep your immunity up.
  2. Garlic – has been known for centuries to assist with immunity and fighting colds and flus. The compound allicin, present in garlic can help to fight infection from both bacteria and viruses.
  3. Ginger – reduces fevers, soothes a sore throat (along with lemon and honey) and can assist with removing mucus from the chest.
  4. Yoghurt – a good source of probiotics, which helps to put good bacteria, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterial, into the gut. This good bacteria has been linked to shortening the severity and duration when taken regularly. If you are not a fan of yoghurt a probiotic containing these bacteria strains will also be effective.
  5. Vitamin D – people with low vitamin D levels are more susceptible to getting sick. If unsure of your vitamin D levels, it’s worth getting them checked. Where we live, in order to get adequate vitamin D from the sun in Winter you need to spend 60 minutes with bare arms and legs in the sun each day between the 11am and 3pm – for most people this is unrealistic, mainly because it’s too cold and very few people have the time to spend lounging in the sun everyday. Good food sources of vitamin D include mushrooms, oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and cereals and dairy that are fortified with vitamin D.

Aside from eating well, exercise is a great way to stay healthy and not only keep you warm in Winter, but also assist with improve immunity. The fresh air is good for the body and a welcome change to being inside with minimal fresh air circulating, harboring bacteria and viruses. Exercise releases endorphins, so if nothing else, it will make you feel good and increase your energy levels, so rug up, get out there and get moving.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Any soup is going to help to warm you from the inside out and help to soothe a sore throat, but the key to keeping your immunity up is vegetables, so make sure that any soup you have is packed full of veggies and has a good source of protein – chicken, meat, fish, legumes, lentils or beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken or a combination of thighs and breast
  • 3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 packet of frozen spinach or 3 cups of fresh
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • Any other veggies you have lying around
  • 1 x 400g tin of brown lentils
  • 1 tbs turmeric
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • ½ cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup roughly chopped parsley leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. To make the chicken broth, place the whole chicken in a large pot and cover with boiling water and cook until chicken is cooked. If time poor, you can use store bought chicken stock.
  2. Remove chicken from the water and chop or shred into pieces, set aside.
  3. In another pot, heat 1 tbs olive oil and add chopped onion, garlic, carrot, celery and thyme and cook stirring for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the liquid the chicken was cooked in and bring to the boil. Add the turmeric, curry powder, basil, oregano, cayenne pepper and parsley and reduce to a simmer, cooking until the vegetables are cooked.
  5. Add the chicken back into the pot along with the lentils, mushrooms, spinach and broccoli and simmer for a further 5-10 minutes.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.