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What to eat to boost immunity – steal this registered nutritionist’s foods list

Kirsten Oddy, Registered Nutritionist  |   10 Apr 2020


Winter or not, we could all do with making our immune system as healthy as possible.

That’s why we’ve asked our partner fertility nutritionist, Kirsten Oddy about what to eat to boost immunity, and for her personal immunity boosting foods list.

Read her expert tips below on how to keep healthy and optimise your wellbeing – whether you’re trying to conceive or not.

Over to Kirsten.

When it comes to what to eat to boost immunity, it’s mostly about balance

The immune system requires many nutrients, adequate sleep, relaxation and regular exercise to function optimally, therefore your first line of defence is to choose a healthy lifestyle.

Getting to the root cause rather than the symptoms in this way is the primary focus of Ayurveda nutrition, amongst other similar philosophies.

There are many products claiming to ‘boost your immune system’ – a concept that actually makes little sense scientifically.

In fact, boosting the number of cells in your body – immune cells or others – is not necessarily a good thing.

When our immune system is working properly, we don’t even notice it – but when we have an under or overactive immune system, we are at greater risk of developing infections and other health conditions.

It should be said that following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Your immune system requires balance, not boosting.

woman in kitchen wondering what to eat to boost immunity

Immunity boosting foods list

1. Vegetables and fruit

Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. Ensuring you have a wide range of varieties and colours – especially oranges, yellows, red and leafy greens – will provide the body with a range of different nutrients and help to promote a strong immune system.

Opt for at least five portions of different vegetables and two portions of different fruit per day. While fresh is optimal, the following are also excellent ways to include fruit and vegetables into your diet:

  • Frozen bags of fruit and vegetables

  • Tinned vegetables (if cannot purchase frozen)

  • Jars of pickled vegetables (gherkins, beetroot, sauerkraut)

2. Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are high in fibre and slow to digest, which makes them more filling than simple carbohydrates.

They are also well known for their blood sugar balancing effects – which can reduce the body’s stress response – and in turn support immunity.

Starchy vegetables and whole grains are fantastic sources of nutrients and antioxidants. Sources include:

  • Root vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, squash etc.)

  • Quinoa

  • Oats

  • Brown rice

  • Wholemeal pasta

3. Lean protein

Lean proteins are lower in saturated fat compared to other sources of protein and are a great source of nutrients.

Proteins are also the building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood, and therefore important to include in each meal. Consuming a variety of sources where possible is key:

  • Eggs

  • Poultry (chicken or turkey)

  • Fresh or tinned fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna)

  • Dried or tinned beans (butter bean, chickpea, kidney etc.)

  • Lentils (red and green are good staples)

  • Protein powders (from whey or plant-based sources)

  • Variety of nuts and seeds

4. Healthy fats

Healthy fats are a major source of energy and vital for every cell in your body. They also help to reduce inflammation, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Aim for a small portion at each meal from the following:

  • Olive oil

  • Coconut oil

  • Nut butters

  • Avocados

  • Olives

  • Variety of nuts and seeds

  • Oily fish

  • Eggs

immunity boosting foods list with nutritional breakdown info

5. Dairy Products

Dairy is included in a well-balanced diet and contains nutrients like probiotics, vitamin D and immunoglobulins that are all vital for the immune system. Limit your consumption to a small portion per day – ideally from grass-fed cows or goats where possible – and if you’re dairy-free, make sure to consume fortified alternatives.

6. Hydration

Water is vital for essential bodily functions – we are made of up 60% water after all! Aim for 1.5-2 litres of water per day and more when exercising, recovering from illness or when the weather is hot. This can also include herbal teas and broths which also provide additional immune support.

7. Avoid immune-depressors

Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by a well balanced diet as mentioned above. The following are known immune-depressors and should be limited or avoided where possible:

  • Caffeine – in excess

  • Alcohol – in excess

  • Processed foods

  • Cigarettes

  • Lack of sleep

A note on supplements for immune system health

There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies and/or supplements could alter your immune response.

If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs, then taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may be beneficial.

It could be a good idea to take a daily vitamin D supplement in the autumn and winter months, since we rely primarily on the sun for this and it can be difficult to obtain enough.

Tips for efficient meal planning

Go through the dates on your perishable goods, take note of when they expire and make a meal plan for the week ahead. For any foods that will expire in the meantime, make sure to freeze them so they don’t get wasted.

Peel, slice and prepare any root vegetables and freeze in portions. These can then be defrosted and cooked as usual and are perfect to combine to make soups and stews. Any meat items that come in multiples – such as chicken breasts – freeze them individually so that you can defrost each one as and when you need it.

Prepare large batches of soups, stews, chillies and curries and store in portions in the freezer – ready to defrost as and when needed for meals.

Also, keep all leftovers, no matter how small. Leftovers can be added to a meal to bulk it out and leftovers from just two or three meals often make up one whole meal – start getting creative in the kitchen!

Want to find out more? Connect with Kirsten, and book in for a chat here.

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