‘Tis the season to be jolly but it is also the season for colds and flu! Unfortunately, this time of year is renowned for delivering unwanted bugs and colds. The stress of Christmas, children bringing home bugs from school and simply the immune system being lower at this time of year, will all have an impact.
However, with a little planning, there are simple ways you can infuse some immune-boosting nutrients into every meal.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells you how to fill your plate with immunity at every meal!
There are some quick wins to be had with breakfast. This is probably one of the easiest meals to add immune-boosting vitamin C, widely available in many fruits. Some fruits have more vitamin C and immune-boosting antioxidants than others, however.
Watermelon contains some of the highest levels of antioxidants and strawberries the highest amount of vitamin C. However, whilst we may see both these fruits on the supermarket shelves at this time of year, it is not their natural season. Apples and pears are naturally available right now and it’s always best to try and eat with the seasons because nutrient levels are going to be at their highest. Interestingly, prunes (which are simply dried plums) are also high on the antioxidant chart and are often popular in the mornings (tinned is fine if you drain off most of the syrup).
Sliced apples or pears are delicious with overnight oats, granola, bircher muesli or good old porridge. Think about every meal being an opportunity to gain valuable nutrients and you’ll soon get creative. Berries are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, partly due to their beautiful dark colours. They are great as an added breakfast booster and also as an easy ‘on-the-run’ breakfast snack. Even though they may have travelled some way to get to the supermarket, which will have depleted a percentage of their nutrients, they still have many wonderful health benefits to offer.
Lunch can be rather challenging just because we’re often away from home, maybe in the office or off-site. However, filling your body with nutrients is no less important at lunchtime and is not too difficult with just a little planning. It’s time to bring on the herbs!
The herbs sage, oregano and thyme all support the immune system, but also help relieve colds, sore throats and flu symptoms. All can easily be added to lunchtime meals.
Lunch is generally best prepared the night before which may mean eating ‘left-overs’ but these meals still deliver important nutrients. Think about dishes such as Bolognese, soups, stews, curries, roasted chicken or fish which are just as good the next day and taste even better with some extra herbs liberally added.
Dinner doesn’t need to be overcomplicated for it to be healthy and immune boosting. Whatever dish you’re eating, the most important thing is to make sure you’ve included vegetables, which are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants. Also important is beta-carotene, rich in sweet potatoes, carrots and peppers, which the body converts to vitamin A as needed – another immune-boosting vitamin.
Any dark-coloured vegetables such as kale, broccoli, sprouts and red cabbage will provide lots of nutrients. However, even lighter coloured root vegetables such as swede (in season right now) can hold their head high when it comes to boosting immunity. You can always have a bowl of vegetable soup as a starter to further increase your veggie intake.
It’s also worth the investment of buying a slow cooker. You can literally throw all the ingredients in, maybe before going to work, and they will be beautifully cooked by the time you come home. A small amount of morning chopping is worth the health benefits you’ll gain.
With a little planning, every meal can support you through the cold and flu season by boosting your immunity this winter.
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