Every year, right as that nip in the air appears, as the leaves slowly start to change, and as soon as I bust out my cute layered outfits, I start to anticipate one other inevitable part of seasonal change – colds! It’s the unfortunate truth that often with a change of season comes a lowered immunity and a higher susceptibility to catching a cold.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to do everything possible to strengthen our immune systems as we near the colder months. Fortunately, the adage “food is medicine” could not be truer. By stocking up on a few key staples, and regularly adding them into your diet, you can help to boost your immunity, which in turn helps your body fight off the common cold, or worse, the flu.
Here are 10 simple items I keep on hand all winter long. They are also easily added into your regular recipes and can help kick up your immune response.
1) Garlic – Garlic not only gives food great flavor, it has strong immune-boosting properties. Fresh garlic is always your best bet to keep on hand (a bulb of garlic can last a few weeks in the fridge without going bad) and is an easy add to any savory dish you’re making.
2) Ginger – Ginger can help decrease inflammation, which is a contributing factor in lowering immune response. A quick and easy way to add fresh ginger into your diet is by having a ginger tea daily. Add ½-inch of fresh ginger to some boiling water, pour into a mug and enjoy! It not only helps boost immunity but is great to soothe a sore throat as well.
3) Chicken Broth – Chicken broth to me is natural penicillin. When made from scratch, it is packed with the vitamins and nutrients that are helpful for gut healing, immunity and lowering inflammation. If you happen to have already caught a cold, it’s also a good way to get your body what it needs to heal, even if you don’t have the biggest appetite at the time.
4) Turmeric – Turmeric is another key anti-inflammatory ingredient. What’s great about turmeric is you can keep the actual root, or the ground spice on hand to cook with. Turmeric is a key ingredient in curries, but I also add ground turmeric into my soups, which not only gives them great flavor, it adds a great antioxidant boost.
5) Citrus Fruit – Fortunately, citrus is in season during the colder winter months. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and limes, are at their most flavorful in the winter, which is perfect, because they are also packed with vitamin C, which is a known cold fighting vitamin. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections!
6) Red bell pepper – I was surprised to find out that red bell peppers actually have a more significant amount of vitamin C than some citrus fruits. Red peppers are also easy to add into your diet in salads, stir-fries or even as the star of your dish in the form of a stuffed pepper.
7) Broccoli – Broccoli is generally a powerhouse of health, but it is especially key in keeping those cold germs away. Broccoli is packed with vitamin A, C, E, fiber and antioxidants. The most ideal way to add broccoli into your diet to keep the nutrients as intact as possible is to steam it, cook it lightly, or keep it raw. Raw is hard for some people to digest, so a light cook is always an option!
8) Spinach – Spinach is rich in vitamin C, but is also rich in other antioxidants and beta-carotene, which can increase our immune system’s infection-fighting ability. Spinach is another easy food to incorporate into a diet because it can easily be added to a smoothie or a savory dish like an omelet or a soup. Just try not to overcook it, because that will remove some of the nutrients.
9) Papaya – This one may be a little trickier to find, but so worth it when you do! Papaya is one of my favorite fruits, and it also happens to be loaded with vitamin C! A medium papaya has twice the daily requirement of vitamin C. Papaya is great on its own as a snack, or with a tiny squish of lime for an added pop of flavor.
10) Almonds – Almonds are typically not where my head would go as a cold-busting super food, but go figure, they are! Almonds are packed with vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that is key to a healthy immune system. Since vitamin E is fat soluble (it needs fat to be properly absorbed by your body), nuts are a great vehicle because they’re filled with healthy fats.
For more ways to incorporate these foods into your everyday diet, check out my recipes on the blog! There are tons of creative ways to make delicious and affordable immune-boosting foods!