As the nights slowly draw in and we snuggle further down into our scarves and blankets, our bodies become increasingly vulnerable to winter nasties.
Yet, if you don’t want to spend the next few months sneezing into endless tissues, or burrowed beneath a duvet, then there’s plenty you can do to protect your body from bugs and viruses.
If you want to super-charge your immune system this winter, then there are lots of nutrients and foods that you can add to your diet to keep your immune system on red-alert. Here are some of my favourite winter warriors to give you a helping hand. Now, eat up!
We’ve all heard the age-old phrase that we have to finish our greens to stay healthy. Yet, far from being something simply thrown at kids to make them eat their veggies, there’s more than a little truth in this. You see, leafy greens (particularly broccoli, which is one food which truly deserves the mantle of “superfood”) contain sulforaphane, which activates special genes to create anti-oxidant enzymes. These enzymes then work to flush out free radicals from the body, and can also reduce inflammation.
For fellow chocoholics, there couldn’t be better news: chocolate (at least, the dark, rich kind) is good for our bodies. Hurrah! You see, chocolate rich in the anti-oxidant cacao (think bars of 85% cacao solids or above) can supercharge the immune system, and even help to increase the good cholesterol found within the body. Try my homemade Buckini Crisp chocolate bars to enjoy all the benefits.
Pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I swear by my Lucy Bee Coconut Oil. I LOVE it, and add it to pretty much everything under the sun. One of the reasons for this is that it’s a healthy source of all kinds of fatty acids, particularly lauric acid, which is a fantastic immune booster. Once inside our body, lauric acid is converted to monolaurin, which an anti-viral agent that can fight off bugs and nasties. Try making a bulletproof coffee for an early morning boost.
Not only do they taste delicious, but sweet potatoes are wonderful at giving our bodies a much-needed kickstart when it comes to the cold and flu season. This is all down to their content of beta carotene (also found in carrots and other orange veggies), which experts believe can trigger our body’s infection-fighting army of soldiers, known as T-Cells.
We all know that we should switch our (thrice) daily coffee habit in favour of healthier, anti-oxidant rich green tea – especially during the colder months. This deliciously refreshing drink contains Polyphenols, which are plant-based antioxidants, to give it powerful immune-boosting effects. In fact, studies have shown that certain polyphenols can destroy flu viruses.
As a fan of all things vibrant and beautiful, turmeric is one of my favourite spices. However, it’s not just fantastic at colouring and flavouring food – it’s also an immune-boosting, wellness warrior, and one of the few foods I try to include in my diet every single day.
You see, this ancient, healing wonder has been used medicinally for centuries – and for good reason. Turmeric contains plenty of a special compound known as curcumin (the same compound which lends it that gorgeous colour), which has lots of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, which are ideal for fighting off colds and nasties, and for preventing and relieving joint pain. It’s even being tested to see how it can help us to fight off cancer.
Want to give this healing, wonder spice a go? Invest in the best quality turmeric powder you can find (I love Lucy Bee turmeric, which is higher in curcumin than many other powders), or use it straight from the turmeric root. Try using it in curries, such as my Chickpea and Sweet Potato curry, or in these daily, immune-boosting super shots. Oh, and as a top tip: black pepper helps you to absorb turmeric more readily into the bloodstream, so always add lashings of pepper when you’re using this spice!
Although this one may sound a little odd, consider this: mushrooms have been used as ancient medicinal wonders for centuries, particularly in far-flung corners of the world. In particular, delicious Shiitake mushrooms (which taste amazing as a bacon substitute on pizza!) have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal effects, and can even help to balance out blood sugar levels.
Another ancient wonder is bee propolis, a sort of sticky glue made by our furry flying friends. The great thing about propolis is that it contains around 300 active compounds and also a lot of anti-microbial properties (these protect bee hives from viruses and bacteria) which are thought to speed up the body’s healing process. You can find all these amazing benefits in one of the only supplements I swear by – Unbeelievable Bee Prepared Daily Defence, which supports the immune system and keeps our bodies in tip-tip condition.
Many natural yoghurts (by this I don’t mean ones loaded with sugar!) such as Greek or coconut yoghurts are rich in probiotics, or healthy bacteria which help to keep our guts – and therefore our bodies – happy (you can read more about why this is important by clicking here). If you don’t enjoy yoghurt, then you could also take a probiotic supplement (I love Optibac), which can work a whole lot of wonders for easing bloating, too!
Not just designed to ward off vampires, garlic has been used to endless studies which all suggest it can ward off those pesky, rotten colds. This is because it contains allicin, immune-stimulating goodness which is released when you chop or crush the cloves, ready for cooking.