Foods to boost your immune system

Foods to boost your immune system

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/

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Working at Maggie’s cancer supper centre in Nottingham, I’m often asked about what foods can help build up our immune system.  This is especially important to cancer patients who may have undergone some quite radical surgery, chemo or radiotherapy.  All of which can have a debilitating effect on the body

 

 

 

winter landscape

 

A strong immune system is also important to many us, as the winter bugs and viruses try to strike us down.

 

 

To strengthen your immune system it is important to

  • Load up on the foods that pack the biggest nutritional punch such as vegetables, pulses, nuts and wholegrain
  • Whilst avoiding processed foods (often high in fat and salt) and
  • Reduce the amount of sugar and alcohol in your diet.
  • You can do even more by selecting foods that are loaded with specific immune boosting nutrients.

Top tips for a healthy immune system

  • chopped veggies

    A rainbow of colour

    Eat a ‘rainbow’ of colour to get more antioxidants in your diet.  By that I mean have plenty of variety,  all the following foods help to nourish the thymus gland, which is responsible for much of the immune-system function.  Eat at least two servings a day of these foods rich in vitamins B, C and E, plus beta-carotene (vitamin A) and zinc – red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, apples, tomatoes, kiwi, carrots, berries, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes.  You get the idea!

Ryvita hummus

 

  • Cook frequently with garlic because it’s a proven immune booster and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. The allicin helps to prevent and fight colds. So add it to hummus, pasta and curry dishes. Rub on to toasted sour dough for a low cal garlic bread

 

 

 

  •  spinachSpinach is rich in folic acid. It can be made into spinach pasta, added to soups, smoothies or pasta sauces.  It can brighten up a curry or bulk out a salad

 

 

  • Cinnamon is antiviral, anti fungal and antibacterial; sprinkle it on your porridge or muesli. Add it to low sugar bakes and biscuits or smoothies
  • Mushrooms – contain vitamin D (and will absorb more if placed on a sunny shelf), which is good at combating viruses. Add to stir-fries, soups and pasta dishes

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  • Stay hydrated  – try and drink at least 6 glasses of water, fruit teas, green and black teas etc a day

 

 

  • Tactivity exercise walkingake some regular exercise: If you want to boost your immune system, get active. Just increasing your heart rate for only 20 minutes three times a week is associated with an increased immune function, and a brisk walk five days a week can help reduce your risk of catching a cold.  Also being out and socialising can help boost your immune system

 

  • Have a giggle! –  Laughing decreases the levels of stress hormones in the body while increasing a type of white blood cells that fights infection.

healthy eating

Super sauerkraut

Fermented food – Super sauerkraut

Food Trends for 2017A few weeks ago I speculated what the 2017 food trends might be; one of them was fermented food.  I’m really hoping to see more of this type of food in restaurants and cafes.  But why is fermented food good for us? Because it contains probiotics or  the ‘good’ bacteria, which can help maximise our digestion, boost our immune system, help the body to eliminate toxins and maintain good gut health. Fermented foods are also rich in nutrients but especially vitamin K2, which works with Vitamin D and calcium for healthy bones, blood and muscles. It is estimated that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut.

Fermentation takes place in the absence of oxygen and nearly any food can be fermented. It just needs liquid, occasionally salt and a storage jar.

sourdoughExamples of fermented food apart from the well known super sauerkraut are sourdough bread, beer, salami, yoghurt, curd cheese, miso, kefir (fermented milk drink), natto (fermented soya beans), pickles, jam and cider.  However if you can I would try and make your own fermented foods because commercial varieties are usually subjected to pasteurisation, which could destroy many of the probiotic process

If we want to encourage the growth of more good bacteria in our bodies, then it makes sense to feed them so they grow and flourish.  That’s where prebiotic’s come in.  They are fibre rich non-digestible nutrients like inulin that probiotics feed on.  Some everyday natural prebiotics that you can add to your daily diets are onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, chicory, bananas

Why not start with some simple and speedy sauerkraut?

Homemade Super Sauerkraut

320 – 350 g cabbage, ½ – 1 tsp sea salt, ½ tsp caraway or fennel seeds, I sterilised jar and lid

IMG_9803Save the outer leaves of the cabbage, remove core and finely slice or grate the cabbage. Add to a large bow and sprinkle in the salt. Using your hands start to mix and squeeze the cabbage, do this for about 10 minutes. Gradually the cabbage will become watery and limp. Add the seeds and mix again.

 

Here are two short video clips showing how speedy the process is

 

Transfer the cabbage mix (including the liquid) to a clean jar, and really press the cabbage in, using the back of a spoon, rolling pin or pestle. When you can get no more in, place one of the larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the sliced cabbage. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in its *liquid. Add a lid, and place on a saucer and store in cool cupboard or room (not the fridge at this stage) and out of direct sunlight.

*The cabbage must be submerged in liquid at all times

IMG_9807Over the next 3 – 10 days remove the lid and leaf and everyday keep pressing the cabbage down to make sure it is submerged. Add additional water to cover the cabbage if necessary. When you are happy with the taste place the jar in the fridge, as it is ready to eat.  As the contents reduce you can just keep repeating the process and fill the jar

Remove any white scum or mould (if it appears) and the sauerkraut can be kept for several months

fermented

 

 

Last week my cookery school guests also make sauerkraut.  They thought it was a very therapeutic process