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Boost your autumn immunity

The change in season can place greater demands on our immune system as the temperature changes. Here are my top 5 tips to eat yourself well this autumn:  

‘Eat the season’

Food that’s in season is likely to be tastier and fresher.  Fresh food helps preserve nutrient content due to less travel time and processing plus it’s a great way to eat sustainably and benefits the planet.  September’s nutrient dense veg include runner beans, courgettes and kale.  Vegetables are nature’s low calorie, high fibre multi Vit; runner beans and kale for example, give us an abundance of iron, beta carotene, antioxidants, vitamin C, folate, zinc and magnesium.  Don’t forget blackberry picking too!  These berries are packed full of vitamin C and antioxidants, both of which are big immune system boosters.  Pumpkin seeds from October pumpkins are a great source of zinc, an essential mineral for the immune system.

Feed your gut

Changes of season can be a big challenge to our immune system and as over two thirds of it is housed in our gut, it’s essential to keep it healthy. Increase your gut nourishing foods to help boost the beneficial micro-flora: all vegetables especially beetroot, carrots, broccoli; flaxseeds; omega 3s from fish; brown rice; tofu; and organic probiotic yogurt.

Cook from scratch

Batch cooking is key here so that you easily have healthful food to hand to fix lunch salads and speedy suppers.  Cooking from scratch as much as possible also minimises processed foods and helps reduce sugar which is often hidden in foods and has actually been shown to reduce white blood cells.  Make sure you get good quality protein in every meal (eggs, oily fish, nuts, seeds, quinoa, probiotic yogurt etc) to help deal with higher levels of stress hormone cortisol that can down-regulate the immune system.

Eat your greens!

Throughout autumn there are some wonderful nutrient dense greens on offer. Did you know that a portion of kale can deliver double your RDA of vitamin C? Along with iron, folate, calcium, antioxidant beta carotene and potassium.  Steam until al dente in order to minimise B vits and vitamin C losses in cooking.

Keep caffeine and cocktails to a minimum!

Time to make the most of the party lull before Christmas to help give your liver a rest as caffeine and alcohol give our livers extra detoxification work to do.  Plenty of water, sipped throughout the day and green smoothies will all help cleanse the liver and nourish the gut.  Opt for plenty of garlic, ginger, artichoke and turmeric, which act as liver tonics too.

What does our immune system need? Plenty of…

  • Vit C – remember stress depletes this vitamin. So make sure you get enough on a daily basis as we don’t store Vit C. Vit C is also often lost in cooking. Sources: kiwi, citrus fruits, peppers, garlic, green leafy veg.
  • Zinc – depleted whenever you drink alcohol. Sources: lean beef, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, prawns.
  • Iron – green leafy veg, brown rice, quinoa, lean meats, darker cuts of chicken, pulses.
  • Protein – for growth and repair. Most quality protein sources with all the essential amino acids are eggs, salmon, tofu, peas, pulses, seeds, nuts, brown rice, mushrooms, oats.
  • Omega 3 – oily fish (choose small fish like trout, mackerel, sardines over tuna), nuts seeds, linseed oil for salad dressings.
  • Fermented foods and gentle fibre from plants to help our gut health – two thirds of the immune system is in the gut.