Jeffrey Boadi is a plant-based health and wellness advocate who focuses on inspiring and educating his community on the benefits of a healthy plant-based lifestyle, through nutritious recipes and informative health related content
We know by now that heading into the colder months poses a challenge for all of us; shorter days, as well as plenty of viruses flying around. Our immune systems end up having to work overtime, but with a little bit of knowledge we can prime it with what we put on our plate.
Here are 6 foods to focus on throughout the autumn and beyond for immune support.
1. Bell Peppers
Whenever we think of immune support, we think of Vitamin C – which is correct. But invariably we think of oranges. But did you know bell peppers contain double the amount of Vitamin C as citrus fruits? This makes them an optimal choice, as Vitamin C increases the amount of infection-fighting white blood cells. They are also rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that our bodies convert to Vitamin A and lends itself to optimal immune function.
Not only do blueberries taste great, but they are rich in antioxidants - particularly anthocyanin, which is what gives them their deep blue colour. Antioxidants help to protect the immune system by reducing cell damage from free radicals, and they also provide support against respiratory tract infections – ie the common cold – which is perfect for the colder months.
Almonds are a concentrated source of Vitamin E, another nutrient required for optimal immunity. As Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin – meaning it is better absorbed in the presence of fat – almonds are perfect in that regard as they possess the necessary fat content within them so that none of that Vitamin E goes to waste.
We’ve spoken about flavonoids, carotenoids, and Vitamins C and E. Spinach is a powerhouse that contains all of them in abundance, providing a ton of cellular support and immune-priming properties. Spinach also contains magnesium – a mineral required for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, which further adds to its nutritional value.
Green tea is a morning drink of many these days, particularly due to its lower caffeine content. It also happens to be a concentrated source of the compound Epigallocatechin Gallate – more commonly known as EGCG – which has powerful immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory properties. In conditions that create a hyper-inflammatory response, such as viral infection, EGCG has the capacity to optimise the immune system to regulate and control inflammation.
6. Dark Chocolate
I bet this wasn’t one you were expecting! Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoid antioxidants and in particular polyphenols, which as previously mentioned with blueberries, offer significant protection to immune cells through reduced oxidative stress, and anti-inflammatory properties. Aim for one that is at least 70% cocoa (the more bitter the better). Prioritise your antioxidant intake from fruits and vegetables first though, but dark chocolate is a handy addition to your toolkit – in moderation.
Jeff's Blueberry Cinnamon Overnight Oats
- 1 banana, mashed
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 scoop plant protein powder (preferably unflavoured)
- 3/4 cup plant milk
For your compote, add your frozen berries into a saucepan with a splash of water and cook down until softened
Get all of your ingredients into a bowl, and mix through until fully combined
Transfer contents of a bowl into a container — you can use an upcycled jar of jam, peanut butter etc if you don’t have a specialist container top with a few fresh blueberries and a sprinkle of hemp seeds
Place in the fridge for a few hours (3-4) or preferably overnight
Pull it out and enjoy!