8 Immune Boosters in your Kitchen

Its cold and flu season at the moment so its hard to avoid the nasty sniffles and sore throats that your friends and family may all be succumbing to. However - it's not actually as hard to stay healthy, or get rid of any bugs quickly and effectively, as you might think. Just step right into your kitchen, open the cupboards and start making better use of some of the amazing immune boosting foods you probably had no idea you had at home. Here are 8 of our favourite immune boosters

Garlic and Onions

Garlic and onion are from the same family. They each contain sulphur compounds and allicin which give them strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties

Tips for use

  • Raw is best – try rubbing a raw garlic clove on toast or simply add some raw garlic at the end of cooking
  • Chop garlic 5-10 mins before use – chopping stimulates allicin production
  • Garlic oil can be used as a remedy for ear infections
  • Raw onions for coughs – an old wives tale but we’ve found it effective! Put half a raw unpeeled onion in a sock near or under your bed. Its decongestant properties can ease coughs and blocked noses

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices have an abundance of immune boosting properties including antibacterial, anti-viral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and decongestant. The phytonutrients that give them their vivid colours also give them their health boosting properties so choose a variety of colourful herbs and spices, including turmeric, cinnamon, chilli, rosemary, thyme, ginger, cloves, oregano etc

Tips for use

  • Fresh or dried are OK
  • Store in a cool/dry environment
  • Throw out old jars
  • Do not open and hold over hot pans as the steam and moisture that then enters the jar damages the essential oils in the spices
  • Add them to EVERYTHING – breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks such as herbal teas
  • Essential oils from herbs can be also inhaled to relieve congestion, for example rosemary, peppermint and eucalyptus

Mushrooms

All mushrooms contain beta glucans, which have been found to help fight inflammation and aid the immune system. They also increase the production of cytokines, which are cells that help fight off infection. There are many well researched ‘medicinal’ mushrooms including Reishi, Shiitake, Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps but even the common button mushroom contains immune boosting properties

Tips for use

  • Leave your mushrooms out in the sun before use to increase their vitamin D content – simply lay mushrooms out on a windowsill for an hour or two between 10am and 3pm – the UVA rays can pass through glass. However, laying them outside may be even more beneficial. As the gill tissue (the brown underside of the caps) is more sensitive to light, placing these with their gills facing up will trigger the strongest increase in vitamin D
  • Buy a variety of mushrooms and use powdered mushrooms such as reishi powder to sprinkle on food if you can’t get the mushrooms themselves.

Berries
Berries are full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and trace minerals. Many are also good sources of Vitamin C. Some berries are touted as ‘super foods’ but tend to be very expensive when more common types such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries will also pack an immune boosting punch.

Tips for use

  • Out of season buy bags of frozen berries and keep them in the freezer for smoothies, porridge or compotes etc
  • Where possible try to find organic berries as they tend to be on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list for high levels of pesticides
  • Forage for your own – in season, take your family and stock up your fridge and freezer from local hedgerows or ‘Pick Your Own’ farms

Fermented Foods

We are only just beginning to understand the power of our microbiome. However we do know that it is a MAJOR part of our immune system. Our ‘good’ bacteria have numerous roles in supporting immunity, including:

  • Secreting immune cells that engulf bacteria and virus-infested cells
  • Reducing the production of inflammatory compounds
  • Activating the synthesis of immune cells
  • Increasing production of antibodies to foreign invaders
  • Reducing the autoimmune responses in the body

Tips for use

  • Variety is key. Choose from yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh etc. Start with small amounts and work up to at least 2 portions of fermented foods daily
  • Ensure that ‘live’ means ‘live! Look for ‘unpasteurised’ products. Most ‘live’ yoghurts have been pasteurised and then only limited amounts of live bacteria added back in
  • Make your own – shop bought fermented foods are currently pretty expensive. Homemade is easier than you might think!

Honey

Honey has numerous medicinal properties. Because it coats your throat it is a natural way to soothe sore throats and coughs. It also has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties to help fight infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi. Honey comes in many varieties, depending on the floral source of pollen or nectar gathered by the bees. This will give different honeys slightly different medicinal properties, however, in general, the darker the honey, the better its antibacterial and antioxidant power.

Tips for Use

  • Choose raw, local honey where possible – cheap, mass produced honey can contain very little actual honey. Honey ‘faking’ is considered common in Europe. Honey is adulterated with honey from unknown origin or other sugar derivatives
  • Honey can be used topically for wounds, burns and cuts. Its antibacterial properties prevent infection and functions as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing both swelling and pain. Manuka is the preferred honey for wound dressing due to its strong antibacterial property

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits contain high levels of vitamin C. However – they contain SO much more! There are over 170 phytochemicals in an orange alone. All citrus fruit contain antitumour, antiviral, anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals.

Tips for Use

  • Use the peel and pith – the bitter flavour associated with these is due to the high levels of phytochemicals they contain.
  • Find unwaxed and organic products if you are using the peel
  • Store in the fridge in a sealed container once sliced as vitamin C levels decline once cut
  • Grate the peel into drinks, porridge, soups etc
  • Add juice and fruit slices to water, teas etc

Coconut Oil

The type of fatty acids found in coconut oil give it immune boosting properties. Lauric acid makes up about 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil. When it is digested, it also forms a substance called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi. These substances have been shown to help kill the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (a very dangerous pathogen) and the yeast Candida albicans.

Tips for use

  • Don’t overdo it! Up to 2 tbsps. per day will confer benefits
  • Use coconut oil for cooking – it’s great in curries/Thai food etc
  • Also add small amounts to smoothies and desserts
  • Oil pulling with coconut oil may aid in sore throats and excess mucous – mix ½ tsp of a high quality organic coconut oil with one drop of an essential oil with antimicrobial properties (lemon or eucalyptus). Swish this solution around the mouth for 10-15 mins. Spit the oil out and brush teeth to remove debris left behind.