Foods to Support A Healthy Immune System25 Jun 2020
Nutrition is key to maintaining a healthy and strong immune system, and while there is no single food to boost immunity, there are important nutrients that work together to ensure a strong and health immune system. Our in-house Dietitians Anna and Alex from The Biting Truth share 10 foods and recipes to try at home!
1. Citrus Foods
Citrus fruits are well known for being a rich source of vitamin C. Rather than waiting until you're already sick to start thinking about vitamin C, incorporate vitamin C rich foods into your family’s diet on a regular basis. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are a great option. Your body is unable to store or produce vitamin C, so it is important that you consume vitamin C rich foods daily for good health and a functioning immune system.
TIP: Rather than offering your children orange juice, we recommend offering orange wedges as a snack (frozen oranges are also popular in the warmer months!) or adding a slice of orange to their water bottle.
Garlic is a little powerhouse and a well-known immunity agent. It contains the antioxidant allicin, which has antibacterial properties and may help your immune system and reduce your risk of catching viruses.
TIP: Garlic adds a delicious flavour to meals, try adding a couple of cloves as a base to sauces, soups, pastas or casseroles or make a batch of hummus (with garlic) for your children to enjoy with some veggie sticks and wholegrain crackers.
3. Red Capsicum
Did you know that one red capsicum contains almost three times more vitamin C than an orange? Consuming just half a medium red capsicum will ensure you reach your daily vitamin C requirements. Red capsicums are also a rich source of beta carotene, which is what gives them their bright red colour. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can help to protect the body from disease.
TIP: Add some capsicum strips to a morning tea platter with cheese and some fruit or finely dice capsicum up and add to a salad with dinner. You can also include red capsicum at breakfast with these delicious breakfast egg muffins.
Ginger is another food many of us turn to when we’re sick for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and other healthful properties. We recommend encouraging ginger in your child’s diet on a regular basis, not just when they get sick.
TIP: Try adding fresh ginger to soups, stir-fries or any Asian dishes! This delicious chicken soup recipe is an easy way to get your child eating vegetables and ginger.
5. Spinach and Broccoli
Spinach and broccoli are not only rich in vitamin C but they’re also packed with antioxidants. These antioxidants may increase the infection fighting ability of our immune systems. Try not to overcook spinach or broccoli to ensure that it retains its nutrients.
TIP: If your children like smoothies, add in a handful of spinach! You could also try making a Spinach & Feta Pie for lunch or dinner on the weekends.
6. Greek Yoghurt
Yoghurt is full of B vitamins, folate and calcium and is also a good source of probiotics (aka healthy gut bacteria). Up to 70% of your immune system lies in the gastrointestinal tract and probiotics may help in a number of ways, like supporting the natural immune barriers and increasing the activity of immune cells.
For centuries, people around the world have turned to mushrooms for a healthy immune system. The Shiitake and maitake varieties of mushrooms are believed to pack the biggest punch when it comes to immunity. Mushrooms can enhance the flavour of your meals - try these delicious mushroom and chickpea sausage rolls or add a handful of mushrooms to pasta sauce or to a stir-fry.
TIP: If you leave your mushrooms in the sunshine for a little while they will also produce vitamin D (another important nutrient for immunity!).
Nuts such as almonds contain protein, healthy fats and are a good source of vitamin E which can support the immune system. It’s best to choose raw and unsalted nuts, otherwise you may unknowingly be doubling your sodium intake.
TIP: Try making your own muesli with some nuts, seeds and oats or make a batch of nut based bliss balls.
Oily fish such as salmon are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy immune system. Although the best source of vitamin D is from the sun, winter time can mean we are outside less often, reducing our exposure to the sun and therefore vitamin D. Fortunately there are some foods that can provide us with vitamin D and salmon is one of these (along with eggs, mushrooms and fortified dairy products).
TIP: Try to offer your family fish 2–3 times a week. Fresh, frozen or tinned are all good options.
Berries are a fantastic source of antioxidants and other immune supporting nutrients for children. The bright red, blue and purple colours come from the potent antioxidant called anthocyanin. They also contain vast amounts of vitamin A, as well as vitamin C, both of which support immune functioning.
TIP: Make a delicious breakfast smoothie and add in frozen berries or stir some fresh berries through plain yoghurt as a snack. Try these Raspberry Muffins.