Keeping your immune system strong is an important way to help fend off dreaded winter coughs, sniffles and the flu.
When you pick up a bug or virus, your immune system kicks into gear to protect your body and keep you well. It also helps protect us from other nasties on a daily basis.
There are plenty of remedies touted to ward off winter sniffles. So, do the old wives’ tales like hot honey and lemon drinks really work? And what should you be drinking to build and maintain strong immune system through winter?
No single food or supplement is a "silver bullet" to prevent us from getting sick. Eating a healthy balanced diet gives our body the best chance for defence, but there are some options that might be able to help.
Here are six dietitian approved options:
Drink your greens
Eating (or drinking) more fruit and veggies is a great way to support and strengthen your immune system. Just like our heart, brain and muscles, your immune system benefits from healthy eating. The trouble is, when it comes to veggies, most New Zealanders fall well short of the recommended three serves a day. Adding veggies, like spinach, to a morning smoothie helps tick the box on a serve of veg and also provides vitamin C and iron - both essential for a healthy immune system. Vegetable soup is also another way of 'drinking' more veggies.
Honey and Lemon
A warm honey and lemon drink may sound like a cuppa your Granny would offer at the slightest sound of a sniffle, and the fact is, she was on to a good thing. Adding lemon to your water not only provides a boost of flavour, but it may also offer some nutritional benefits. Lemons are rich in vitamin C, which helps support immunity. It also helps your bodies absorb iron from plant foods like green veggies, legumes and whole grains. You can’t store vitamin C in your body, so you need to make sure you are getting a good daily dose.
Add to those benefits, the value of honey - a traditional medicine for 8000 years. Honey has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which among many things, may help support your immune system.
Almond milk (with B12)
As well as helping to reduce fatigue, vitamin B12 helps the immune system. The main sources of vitamin B12 are animal products, so if you are vegan or vegetarian it can be difficult to get enough vitamin B12. That makes vitamin B12 fortified almond milks like So Good™, an excellent choice to add to your smoothie, cuppa or cooking. As well as tasting great, just one glass can provide half your daily vitamin B12 needs. Almond milks also contain vitamin E, a natural antioxidant to help protect cells from free radicals and some like So Good Almond Milk, are fortified with calcium, for healthy bones.
Cutting back on caffeine, avoiding alcohol and drinking more water is good for your health in general, as well as your immune system. Try infusing your water with berries or citrus fruits for a delicious drink with extra vitamin C, to help keep your immune system working well.
Adding a handful of nuts to a smoothie is a delicious way to incorporate a wide range of vitamins and minerals to your usual smoothie mix. Nuts contain a combination of at least 28 essential nutrients, including vitamin E, iron and zinc – nutrients that are vital in supporting your body’s natural defences.
Another great addition to your smoothie is whole grains, such as oats and wholegrain breakfast cereals. As well as helping to keep winter hunger pangs at bay, the pre-biotic fibre in wholegrains helps feed good gut bacteria - a healthy immune system needs to be supported by a healthy gut.
Whether as a tea or infused in water, ginger is an ideal go-to when the weather cools. Ginger is another food or spice that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Modern science supports its anti-inflammatory and, anti-oxidative benefits, which may help support your immune system.
Other ways to build and maintain a strong immune system are getting plenty of sleep, maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising daily. For more tips on supporting your immune system visit our Immunity Hub.