by Charmaine Mercado
Fact: people are more susceptible to colds when it's cold. Coughs, fever, and flu are also easy to contract when it's chilly outside. It's therefore no surprise that the dread meter registers the highest numbers during winter. Many, if not most, are just afraid of getting sick during the winter months.
But here's the good news. Your immune system can function as well as it does in summertime even if it's snowing outside. You just have to eat the best foods that will nourish and strengthen it. Here's a list of some foods that will give you a robust immunity in spite of the harsh season. It's very important that you eat them raw so you preserve all their nutrients, including heat-sensitive enzymes.
All of the foods mentioned below have anti-mutagenic properties. If they can help defend your body against something as severe as cancer then they can definitely help protect you from the sniffles, even in the freezing height of winter.
Spirulina is not called a superfood for nothing. It provides a full spectrum of nutrients, from complete protein to vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, enzymes, and essential fatty acids. Spirulina is highly nourishing, detoxifying, healing, balancing, and immune-boosting—the perfect food if you ask any natural health expert.
One of spirulina's superstar nutrients is chlorophyll. It takes out all the gunk in your blood and provides it with more oxygen. Higher blood oxygen levels result in increased immunity against pathogenic micro-organisms, which all thrive in an oxygen-deprived environment. Spirulina is also high in B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine, which all work in synergy to strengthen immunity. Other micro-algae such as chlorella and blue-green algae have similar benefits and are therefore just as helpful in raising immunity.
Another plenipotent and multi-tasking green superfood is wheatgrass. It contains amino acids and antioxidants that optimize the function of the body's protective systems. Wheatgrass also raises body pH. The more alkaline you are, the more immune you'll be to colds, coughs, flu, inflammation, and more serious conditions such as diabetes and cancer.
The chlorophyll abundantly present in wheatgrass strengthens your immunity in two more ways: it helps prevent infections and creates an ideal environment for beneficial bacteria to increase and multiply in the gut.
Wheatgrass is available in fresh, powdered, capsule, and tablet forms, but it is better consumed as a fresh raw juice. Slamming shots gives it a fun element as well ☺
Fermented vegetables are not only a tasty way to consume your veggies; they're also fab for regulating immunity. This means that fermented veggies can either tame a hyperactive immune system (as in the case of allergies) or stimulate an underactive one.
Cultured vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi contain probiotics, or beneficial bacteria that promote healthy intestinal flora. Friendly bacteria don't just efficiently combat bacteroides that rob you of health; they also help your body extract nutrients from your food and even produce B and K vitamins for you.
Your gut is where most of your immune cells do their patrolling, and they get a lot of great backup from your colony of good bacteria. Your WBCs are your immune army outside your gut and the beneficial bacteria are the soldiers inside your gut. Encourage their population boom by eating more sauerkraut and kimchi this winter.
Miso is made by fermenting legumes (soy, chickpeas) and grains (rice, barley) with a beneficial mould called 'koji.' Miso is rich in antioxidants and has antiviral properties that may keep you from sneezing and coughing this season. It can also protect you from radiation. Exposure to radiation (via the use of cell phones and computers) can greatly impair immune function.
Buy only unpasteurized organic or non-GM miso. To make raw miso soup, blend miso paste with some water using a high powered blender. Or pour hot (not boiling) water into a bowl and dissolve miso paste by stirring with a spoon if you prefer to consume a soothing and warming soup.
Shiitake is one of the few medicinal mushrooms that taste great, making it easy to incorporate in weekly meals. Shiitake mushroom contains a certain polysaccharide called lentinan, which helps your body destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi by improving T-cell function. Beta glucans, another type of polysaccharide present in shiitake, helps inhibit the replication of viruses.
Shiitake also contains vitamin D, a nutrient that is gaining more press due to the crucial role that it plays in human immunity. Getting enough sunlight is a great challenge during the winter months, so try to obtain vitamin D through your diet.
Water kefir contains a whopping 32 strains of good bacteria and 12 types of beneficial yeast. So yes, water kefir can definitely populate your gut with friendly micro-organism faster than fermented vegetables could.
You can make water kefir using coconut water or sugar water, which tastes just like soda minus the damaging effects of refined sugar. Eating excess kefir grains may help speed up healing from colds and flu.
If you're familiar with the story of the Black Death thieves, you'd know that garlic is a real doozy when it comes to bolstering immunity. No bacteria, virus, or fungus can survive in the presence of raw garlic. It is even known to kill parasites, which cause a gamut of health problems ranging from allergies to cancer.
Garlic also contains selenium, sulfur, and zinc. Selenium boosts the production of cytokines, proteins that are secreted by immune cells that are necessary for proper cellular communication. If your cellular communication system is messed up then your immune cells won't be able to carry out successful shoot and destroy missions.
Sulfur is a mineral that helps the body neutralize toxins and fight various infections. Zinc on the other hand stimulates white blood cells to do their job better, which is to tag pathogens as enemies so that they can be easily recognized and destroyed by different types of immune cells.
Make sure to consume garlic before consuming fermented foods and beverages, not after. Other warming and immune-enhancing spices include ginger, onion, clove, and cinnamon.
Cruciferous vegetables are naturally high in sulfur and vitamin C. Members of the cruciferous family include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, kale, radish, mustard greens, rocket, and bok choy.
Broccoli has the highest vitamin C content compared to its relatives. Vitamin C increases the production of antibodies, protein molecules that identify and destroy antigens or foreign invaders. Vitamin C also increases the production of interferon, a type of antibody that coats cells to fend off viruses and bacteria.
Vitamin C is antiviral and can offer protection from colds and respiratory infections. It also helps reverse free radical damage, something that immune cells undergo when they get in contact with germs and other harmful micro-organisms.
Dark leafy greens
It doesn't matter what season it is—we have a perennial need for green vegetables to be healthy, so get as much leafy greens as you can in your diet this winter. Spinach, bok choy, collards, kale, Swiss chard, watercress, moringa, and swamp cabbage are all high in chlorophyll and beta carotene, two important nutrients that fuel immunity.
Chlorophyll in green vegetables helps lower stress levels. Stress is immuno-supressive. It has been implicated in a lot of diseases, ranging from the common cold to cancer. Greens are also natural mood uppers and are therefore great for banishing the winter blues.
Beta carotene, a type of carotenoid also found in orange fruits and vegetables, jacks up the production of natural killer (NK) and T-cells. What's great with beta carotene is that it's not toxic in large amounts like pre-formed vitamin A found in animal foods. Your liver won't convert excess beta carotene into vitamin A anymore if you already have enough stores. Beta carotene will then be used as a free radical scavenger, not stored as excess vitamin A.
Cold-pressed coconut oil
Raw coconut oil is famous for its anti-microbial properties. It can also help prevent viral infections and treat yeast overgrowth. The medium chain fats in coconut oil are not stored as fat. Coconut fats are burned by the body as if they were carbohydrates, so you need not worry about gaining weight if you consume the oil in acceptable amounts. Cold-pressed coconut oil may also help jump-start a sluggish metabolism. Consuming coconut oil this winter would therefore help you incinerate fat. Weight gain can easily happen during the winter months because the low temperature does not encourage people to put on their cross trainers and run a few miles around the park.
Applying coconut oil on your skin will not just keep it from getting excessively dry this winter. It will also protect your skin against bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms that you wouldn't want to enter your body through your skin.
Chia is a wonderful superfood source of omega 3, an essential fatty acid that vegans and vegetarians may lack, especially if their diets are heavy on omega-6 foods such as nuts, seeds, and oils. Omega-3 fats stimulate phagocyte activity. Phagocytes are a type of white blood cells that gorge on bacteria, dead cells, and foreign particles that have no right to stay in your bloodstream.
Chia has complete protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, potassium, and a higher ORAC rating than blueberries. Flax may have more omega 3s per gram, and hempseeds may have more protein, but both alternative sources of omega 3s are not as cleansing as chia. Chia also happens to be the easiest to digest and incorporate in meals and drinks among the 3.