Gut health is the cornerstone of your health and immunity with up to 90% of your immune system in your gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, what you eat affects your immunity. Steph Lowe, The Natural Nutritionist and Author of Low Carb Healthy Fat Nutrition tells us what to eat this winter.
Get plenty of vitamin C-rich foods
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and strengthens our epithelial barrier function against potential pathogens. In addition, it protects against environmental stresses and can downregulate cortisol which is an immune suppressant at higher levels. Aim to consume vitamin C-rich foods such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, kiwi fruits, berries and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts. These are our key seasonal foods for a very good reason.
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Rebalance your gut
As Hippocrates once said “all disease starts in the gut”. Quit refined sugar as it can lead to an overabundance of opportunistic bacteria in the gut. Instead, support your digestion and immune system with prebiotic foods such as asparagus, artichokes, leeks and green banana flour, and probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. If you’re new to fermented foods, start very small with one to tablespoons of sauerkraut or kimchi or a 30ml serve of kefir.
Heal your gut
You really can’t beat bone broth when it comes to gut health (remember mum's chicken soup recipe?). Rich in glutamine, collagen and gelatin, it is essential for facilitating digestion and for cell integrity and healing, especially of the gut wall. Bone broth heals and in turn, improves nutrient absorption, meaning you’ll obtain more out of the food that you consume. You may have heard of the saying “you are what you eat”, when in truth it should be “you are what you digest and absorb”.
Incorporate garlic regularly
Garlic offers amazing anti-inflammatory and immune benefits. Garlic contains numerous sulfur-containing compounds that activate liver enzymes responsible for expelling toxins from the body. It is also known as nature’s antibiotic and is one of the best natural ways to fight off infections. Simply add a whole garlic bulb the next time you are roasting vegetables, peel and add to your plate.
Turmeric is an ancient Ayurvedic spice that offers liver and gall bladder support as it assists the enzymes responsible for flushing out dietary carcinogens. Curcumin, the key compound in turmeric, is also anti-inflammatory (hello sore throat) and immune boosting due to its’ strong antibacterial effects.
Turmeric can be added to broths and soups, curries, scrambled eggs and omelettes and it is delicious as herbal tea or as a turmeric latte with coconut or almond milk.