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This article is brought to you by TAL, in partnership with Healthy Chef aiming to inspire healthier, happier lives.
By Teresa Cutter - The Healthy Chef
When I first moved to Sydney from Perth around 15 years ago, I was so stressed out and run down that I ended up getting pneumonia. My immunologist recommended an immune boosting dietary plan that I needed to follow to help me get back on track.
Food is one of the most powerful tools we have to help prevent disease and a healthy body begins with a healthy immune system. It maintains homeostasis by defending against viruses and bacteria, which can cause inflammation in the body, illness and disease. Our body also produces antibodies that can help destroy viruses and assists our body to heal.
Nutritional deficiencies can impair immune function, increasing both the risk and severity of infection. Vitamin D, for example, acts like your personal bodyguard, helping to protect cells and assist in healing. Studies from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that vitamin D supplementation during the winter season may reduce the incidence of influenza.
Around 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut. If you have intestinal digestive issues or poor gut flora, you’ll be more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections such as colds and flu.
With this in mind, I make restorative soups and juices from fresh vegetables, fruits and quality protein sources. These provide me with a concentrated source of nutrients that my body can easily absorb. I also include anti-inflammatory ingredients such as garlic, ginger and turmeric, which play a starring role. Garlic, turmeric and ginger are potent herbs that help the body eliminate toxins, stimulate circulation, aid digestion and boost immune function.
Getting adequate sleep and rest is perhaps the most important thing I make sure I do to optimize immune function. Just a few nights of not sleeping well can elevate inflammatory markers and reduce the protective capability of your immune system. I make sure to go to bed earlier, sleep a little longer and give my body the rest it needs.
My Top 5 Immune Boosting Foods
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, responsible for the distinct yellow colouring and the impressive list of health properties. Because turmeric has high antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties, it means it is great for helping to reduce the symptoms of cold and flu.
Studies have shown that ginger has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It helps to boost immune function and combat cellular damage. This gut friendly spice stimulates digestion, gut motility and bowel function, while helping to relieve bloating, cramping and nausea.
Garlic is also an immune system warrior, protecting the body from infections and illness. Garlic contains allicin, a potent phytonutrient that is great for cardiac health. It has been shown to help lower blood pressure, inhibit blood clotting and promote healthy cholesterol levels.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cold pressed olive oil is rich in antioxidants and antiviral compounds that support a strong immune system. Studies show that olive oil phenolic compounds have potentially beneficial biological effects resulting from their antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (good bacteria) that reside in the gut. Probiotics support our immune system, aid digestion and assist with nutrient absorption into our bloodstream. Take probiotics and/or eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are naturally packed with probiotics that promote healthy gut bacteria. Examples include kefir, kombucha tea, yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and fermented vegetables.