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Nutrition

A Dietitian Shares her Top Immunity Heroes

Simone Austin
Written by Simone Austin | Dietitian

If only there was one magical food that could fight off the winter germs! In reality, the key to winter wellness is a varied diet with an array of vitamins, minerals, protein to help support your immunity.

Here are a few key foods high in nutrients, that you can consider adding to your diet to help keep the immune system running healthy this winter.

1. Seafood

People are often hesitant about cooking seafood at home, however, it’s worth trying as seafood is packed with valuable nutrients that might help you get through winter a little healthier.

It’s a valuable source of protein, which helps with building immune system cells. Oily-type fish, such as sardines, salmon and maceral, along with oysters, have higher levels of zinc, which supports immune system (1) functioning and wound healing.

Oily fish (2) also have vitamin A and vitamin D. These supports healthy functioning of the immune system. Not many foods contain vitamin D, we obtain most of it from the sun.

Prawn Skewers on a wooden board

2. Legumes

Legumes (3) are a good food source for your gut bacteria which supports growth of good gut bacteria which in turn supports a healthy immune system. Legumes contain prebiotic fibre which is what your good gut bacteria likes to eat. The prebiotic fibre travels undigested through the digestive system to your large intestine, where the bacteria ferment it. This fermentation produces short chain fatty acids (4) and gases that are healthy for your gut. They can enter the blood stream and signal different parts of the immune system around the body.

You can add legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, lupins and lentils to casseroles, soups and curries. Black beans go well in stir frys and even in chocolate brownies!

Beans and legumes on wooden spoons

3. Yoghurt

Thanks to your increased intake of fibre, your gut bacteria is well fed. Now, let’s look at how else we can influence your bacteria colonies. Eating foods containing 1 billion CFU (colony forming units) probiotics per gram or more will help nourish your good gut bacteria.

Other foods such as fermented teas (kombucha), fermented vegetables that are not pasteurised (e.g. sauerkraut found in the fridge section of the supermarket, rather than the shelf variety), miso (fermented soy beans), fermented yoghurt drinks (e.g. kefir or Filmjolk). A variety of these will provide you with a range of different beneficial bacteria. These foods might not have high levels of bacteria however the variety and metabolites they produce during the fermentation process can be beneficial for your (5) gut and therefore your immune system The number and variety of strains is important for good health.

Blueberries and oats in glass jars

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Antioxidants can help support the immune system. We often think of fruit and vegetables for antioxidants and these are a major source, however extra virgin olive oil (6) that is fresh and good quality will also provide us with antioxidants. Antioxidants help mop up free radicals, damage caused by oxidation in the body.

Extra virgin olive oil helps with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin E, which also provide antioxidant support. Pouring extra virgin olive oil on vegetables make them taste nicer therefore you will eat more of them, further boosting your vitamin and mineral intake!

5. Vitamin C - Heavy Fruits

Last but not least, keep up your vitamin C levels with kiwifruit, capsicum, citrus fruits and berries. Aim for two pieces of fruit a day – try enjoying them in a fruit salad bowl with a delicious yoghurt.

Finally, in winter, we often like to keep indoors more. A fun indoor winter activity is a cook up with family and friends. It is a great way to bond and enjoy food at the same time. It can be a relaxing time to sit and enjoy a longer lunch, dinner or weekend breakfast. Chronic stress (7) can have negative impacts on the immune system, so take some time to enjoy a meal together to help you get through winter well.

Simone Austin

Reference

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793244/#:~:text=Zinc%20is%20a%20micronutrient%20that,%2C%20to%20fibrosis%2Fscar%20formation.
  2. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/873a7533-e4d1-43ea-9e6a-7a4f9a0c61af/190729_Nutrition_Position_Statement_-_Fish_and_Seafood.pdf
  3. https://www.glnc.org.au/keep-your-immune-health-on-track-with-legumes/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4855267/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6306734/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22607645/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/