We are what we eat. On a physical level, our bodies are made up of things we have eaten during our life. All parts of our bodies are regularly repaired and replaced. This means that what we put in our bodies is of vital importance to keep us in good health. If you want a stronger immune system, look at what you are eating. Generally speaking, unprocessed foods, fruits, vegetables will reap many more benefits than ready-made or convenience foods when it comes to immune function. Today, I will go through three immune-boosting vegetables and how to include more of them in your diet.
Garlic is a tasty addition to meals, but did you know it's also beneficial for your immune system? There's lots of research to back up the claim that garlic is full of antioxidants which help to fight infection and support the immune system. It has been found that garlic has high concentrations of vitamin C and B6, and it also contains a compound called allicin. This compound is released when you cut or crush a clove of garlic. Allicin is what gives garlic a distinctive smell and is thought to be part of the reason for its immune-boosting properties. That's why it is important to crush or chop your garlic before using it. Raw garlic is most beneficial for health; but it is thought that by leaving crushed or chopped garlic to stand before heating, it could help retain its health-giving properties.
How to include more garlic in your diet:
Make a raw garlic oil or garlic vinegar to leave on the table to swirl on to salads, breads and soups. Peel, smash and chop 3-4 cloves of garlic, place into a sterilised glass bottle and pour olive oil or vinegar to the top. The garlic will infuse into the oil or vinegar over time and leave a delicious and nutritious dressing.
If you haven't got a bottle of garlic oil but still want a quick and tasty garlic salad dressing: Combine a crushed and chopped garlic clove, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper and a pinch of your favourite dried herbs to go with your immune boosting, rainbow salad.
Add more dips to your diet. You can sneak in lots of raw garlic to smashed avocado dips, hummus and baba ganoush. Hummus and baba ganoush can be batch-cooked and frozen so you always have some handy. There are lots of dip recipes to be found in our recipe section, here.
Roast a tray of veggies and add a few whole garlic cloves. Remember to crush them a bit first to release the allicin and let them stand for 10 seconds. They will make the veggies taste great. These roasted cloves are lovely to eat whole too. I like to smash them on wholegrain toast with some butter for a quick garlic bread.
Use loads of garlic in sauces, stews and soups. Peel, crush and chop 4 or 5 cloves. Then pop into the pan with some oil before adding veggies and whatever else you are cooking up. We have lots of inspiring recipes over in our recipe section.
If you really dislike the taste of garlic, but want to get the immune boosting effects, garlic capsules are a good option. Quest Kyloic Garlic is my pick.
Green leafy vegetables contain high levels of vitamins C, K, and folate. These are all brilliant immune system boosters. On top of that, green leafy veg contain antioxidants. These help keep you healthy by counteracting the damage that free radicals do to our cells.
Tip: the darker the leaf, the more antioxidants it contains.
As well as being a well-known source of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients, not to mention both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, research is proving that green vegetables are also a key source of specialised chemical signals. Without getting too deep in science speak, these chemical signals help our immune systems to self-communicate.
How to include more leafy green veg in your diet:
There are lots of green leafy veg to choose from, so don't get stuck in a spinach rut. You can mix it up by using kale, chard, rocket, romaine lettuce, bok choy and cabbage.
If you really hate the taste of green veg, mask it! There are lots of interesting ways you can disguise these veg into something you find more delicious. I love to add frozen spinach to my blueberry and banana smoothies. You can't even taste the spinach and you get a great dose of veg without noticing it.
Another sneaky green veg trick is to make pesto. Add a handful of rocket alongside the traditional pesto herb, basil. Whizz it up with some garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, oil and vinegar and you have a tasty sauce or spread.
Add a side salad to each meal, and make this rich in green veg. Sprinkle with a garlic dressing for an extra immune boost.
Appearance is important. Make your green veg look really enticing and delicious instead of an after-thought on the edge of your plate.
Add fresh herbs as a garnish to each meal. Parsley on fish, basil on soup, coriander on curry. It all adds up to your green veg count each day.
Use lettuce leaves as an alternative to slices of bread or a burger bun. Or deconstruct your sandwich and make it into a salad bowl instead.
Colourful vegetables are another great source of vitamin C and antioxidants, both of which help to keep the immune system in tip top shape. As well as being rich in essential vitamins, colourful vegetables are packed with plant compounds called phytonutrients, important for maintaining health and wellbeing.
Vegetables such as peppers, carrots, beetroot, squash and aubergine are just a few examples of vegetables that add colour, taste, and tonnes of immune-boosting vitamins to your diet.
Remember, the cooking process can affect the nutrient content of fruit and vegetables. Cook your veg lightly, so there is a crisp bite to it. If you are boiling vegetables, retain the boiled water and use it in a sauce so you retain that vitamin.
Tip: Red bell peppers are particularly high in vitamin C - in fact they actually contain more than many citrus fruits!
How to include more colourful veg in your diet:
With each meal, attempt to make your plate as colourful and varied as possible. This is a really simple way of ensuring you get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals.
Chop up some colourful veg sticks. Carrots and bell peppers are perfect. These make great snacks and can be used as a dipping agent for all those yummy garlic-filled dips you will be making.
Add colourful cooked veg to dips. Roasted pepper, beetroot or carrot are really delicious blended into a bean dip.
Sneak some veg into your mashed potato. It's such a simple and tasty way of adding colourful veg to your diet. Carrots or sweet potato work very well here. Add some chopped fresh herbs on top and you will sneak some of your green veg in too.
Make a vegetable juice. If you have juicer you can choose a selection of vegetables and a green apple for flavour. If you don't have a juicer, it is possible to find bottled vegetable juices in your local health food store. Make sure they are not made from concentrate though, and that they have no added sugars. We stock a selection of pressed, organic Biota juices. They are never from concentrate and each step of the manufacturing process ensures that the maximum amount of nutrients is retained.
Variety is really key with this. Rather than sticking to the same routines each week with dinners and snacks, try and mix it up a bit and add new and colourful vegetables to your basket you perhaps haven't had before.
If you are a meat eater, it can be tempting to think of vegetables as a side show, with meat playing the leading lady. To ensure you are getting enough immune-boosting veggies in your diet, make vegetables the centre point of your meal. Use meat as a garnish rather than the main focus.
Here is my self care tip on how to include more immune boosting veg in your diet:
The vegetables I have listed here deserved a special mention for their ability to improve our immune function. However, there are many more vegetables I didn't mention that serve a purpose for your health. Don't forget to eat a wide variety of vegetables and try not to get fixated on one thing. Variety is the spice of life, after all!
If you are feeling run down or think you might be coming down with a cold or flu, including these immune boosting vegetables in your diet is a great idea. However, you may need some extra support at times when your immune system is running on empty. Supplementing with vitamin C and Echinaforce is a good idea when you need to kick a cold or flu on its head.