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A lil bit of food magic: 5 foods to boost your immune system

Text Elisheba Akalawu

Food glorious food, in the words of Oliver Twist, is literally the elixir of life. During this challenging time cooking meals, experimenting with flavours and learning about the benefits of certain ingredients has been a major act of kindness, not only for myself but for those around me. The act of cooking and sharing food together has become a comforting practice. My mum’s healthy juice shots have provided us with some much needed energy and respite, Saturday pancakes offer just the right amount of comfort, and guilt-free carby dinners such as pasta, rice and potatoes deliver the soul straight to paradise! 

In addition to the flavours and all-around good time food is providing, it’s important that we’re fueling our bodies with the right foods; Food that is high in nutritional value to help ward against viruses and diseases (ahem, yeah I’m sending shots Covid-19). Choosing ingredients packed with antioxidants, probiotics and vitamins is a great way to safe-guard yourself, while (for some) also experiencing something new. Listed below are 5 key immune-boosting foods, their benefits and delicious suggestions to help you incorporate it into your meal plan.

KALE

One of my favourite leafy greens for its versatility, flavour and incredible nutritional content. This vegetable is packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C and K, as well as omega-3s which aid in digestion. Its vitamin C content means it’s rich in antioxidants, helping to fight off infection and regenerate other antioxidants in the body. It’s a great snack that can be eaten raw, added to smoothies, or baked in the oven for a crispy treat. My favourite lunch is a twice-baked potato with a crispy kale and creamy tuna filling.

CHICKPEAS

Plant protein at it’s finest, chickpeas – also known as garbanzo beans – are a wonderful alternative to meat as a source of protein. An easily accessible and storable food, it’s full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and zinc, aiding digestion and reducing the risk of certain diseases. As most of our immune cells live in our gut, foods that are anti-inflammatory are highly recommended. Chickpeas are great roasted in the oven and added to salads, or as a curry served with rice.

CHIA SEEDS

Chia seeds have risen to popularity in the last decade but have been consumed for centuries due to their rich health benefits. They are packed with antioxidants, minerals and nutrients which aid in digestion and relieve gut inflammation; They are also a natural, plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acid and protein. These tiny seeds pack a major health punch and can be found in most grocery stores – in two colours: black/grey and white. They can be added to smoothies, yoghurt, salads and soup – as well as make a delicious plant-based pudding.

CINNAMON

Cinnamon is a superfood that I feel doesn’t get enough recognition. It’s got antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, essentially not only boosting the immune system but it fights illness-causing pathogens. It’s easy to get – most of us will have this in our cupboards – and very easy to use. I like to sprinkle it over fruit and oatmeal, add it to juices, smoothies and coffee, and it’s a useful ingredient in many cake and baking recipes.

GINGER

A tasty root with anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals, ginger has long been a wellness fave to eat raw or juice up. It’s a natural treatment for bloating and indigestion, as well as helping to decrease the chances of contracting an illness. It’s the perfect addition to any meal, but it’s especially tasty brewed as a tea with some honey, or taken as a juice shot with lemon, orange, cayenne pepper and water – now that’s sure to kill any nasties!