There’s nothing like being struck down with a cold to make you appreciate your good health. And while adequate exercise, keeping hydrated and getting enough sleep are all key to a strong immune system, another way to reduce the impact of nasty bugs you may come into contact with is by committing to a nourishing diet. As they say, prevention is better than cure, so don’t wait until you start feeling blah to supercharge your eating regime. Our advice? Stock up on these ingredients—all believed to be potent health-boosters—and add at least one to every winter dish.
Many of us know turmeric as an important ingredient in many Indian curries, but the yellow-hued spice—derived from the root of the Curcuma plant—is now showing up in everything from smoothies to casseroles. This vibrant ingredient boasts anti-inflammatory properties and has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Sipping a golden latte is a nice start but you can also benefit from adding a pinch or two to your hummus, scrambled eggs or stir-fry.
This colourful veggie contains higher levels of vitamin C than oranges (!), with the red variety providing more beta carotene than its green and yellow counterparts. Vitamin C, is essential for the growth, development and repair of body tissues, and plays a vital function in iron absorption and wound healing. Beta carotene converts to vitamin A in the body, which is needed for a healthy immune system. Capsicum is delicious eaten raw with dip, or diced and added to pasta sauces.
We shouldn’t forget about citrus altogether—lemons, oranges and pink grapefruit are still excellent sources of vitamin C (which is believed to increase the production of infection-fighting white blood cells btw). Because the body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C, it’s important to keep up your intake, so add a splash of citrus juice to salad dressings, squeeze a wedge over an omelette or pop a mandarin in your handbag to snack on.
Zinc is one of the most important trace elements found in the body and is essential for regulating immune function. A zinc deficiency can even result in higher susceptibility to colds and the flu, which is why you should think about upping your intake in winter. Legumes like chickpeas and lentils are a great source of zinc, and they’re also an ideal vegetarian alternative for adding protein and fibre to curries, soups and stews.
Nuts and Seeds
When you need a quick and easy snack, there’s nothing better than a handful of nuts and seeds. Both are powerful sources of zinc, with some of the top performers including pumpkin and sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds and cashews. Make your own trail mix for on-the-go sustenance, sprinkle a small handful over your morning porridge or add a mix to baked goods like muffins and loaves of bread for a tasty nutrition boost.
Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and is found in just about every cuisine. Known for its pungent aroma and flavour as well as its prized health benefits, this year-round pantry staple is high in antioxidants as well as being a great source of vitamin B6, selenium and vitamin C. It can be added to just about any savoury dish, from soups, roasts and casseroles to pasta. Just about every savoury dish can benefit from a few cloves.
Like garlic, ginger is a kitchen essential and a powerhouse when it comes to antioxidants. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can aid in reducing a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. Unlike garlic, however, ginger also lends itself to sweet dishes like cakes, cookies and crumbles, so think beyond the usual soups and stir-fries. We love the zing it adds to our morning juice, and it’s also lovely added to iced tea.
Containing vitamins A, C and E, broccoli is one of the most nutritiously dense vegetables you can serve up. Eating seasonally is a great way to enjoy foods while they’re at their peak, both nutrition-wise and flavour-wise, so loading up on winter produce like broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) can further help to fight off nasties. For maximum health benefits, consume when cooked as little as possible—a light steam will ensure your veggies are both nutritious and digestible.