Half of my family has already been sick with the flu. Why are we getting the flu when we’re so healthy? Well, the kiddos bring it home and they’re tiny little systems are still building up tolerances. Joe also tends to pick up more than normal because a. He’s male and b. He was a preemie, so his system is a bit compromised. With that said, he’s made tons of stride in strengthening his system via food choices, movement, stress management and self love.
A wonderful benefit of eating an 80/20 diet (80% clean, 20% small indulgences) is when we do catch the flu or a nasty little bugger, our down time is usually 50% of the standard sick time or less. Let’s look at some natural immune boosters that are affordable and easily accessible.
My personal fav –sunshine. Did you know that one of the best ways to boost your immune system is by increasing your Vitamin D intake? Supplements are ok, but they absorb differently for everyone. However, good ol’ fashioned sunshine is where it’s at! In the winter, it’s even more important to grab that strongest afternoon sunshine – try and get it on your chest and abdomen if possible. Grab at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight. For a bonus, hold your face to the sun and get an instant mood booster! It’s like God’s natural multi vitamin.
Water. Agua. It’s quite an enigma to me. Such a simple but powerful element. We have plenty on this earth but we’re also in a constant draught. We waste it but need it. We’re made up of 80% of the stuff. Water. With it being winter, we should all increase our intake of water to flush out all of the nasty toxins and to detox the body. It’s so necessary to hydrate during this very dry period of the year. Start your day off with this precious gift when you wake. Drink it warm, drink it cool (I don’t recommend drinking it too cold), drink it with lemon or other fun flavor, fruit and herb enhancers. My point: drink more water. #preachingtomyself
Another must have, the delicious and ever useful, garlic. Garlic is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. Use it as much as you can, whenever you can. I throw it in black beans (not paleo but a beautiful complex carb we enjoy once a week or so), roast it with chicken, add it to roasted or sautéed veggies. My favorite way to use garlic is raw and I’ll toss it into our guacamole and pesto. It heightens the flavor profile and gives it a well needed punch to keep the flavors interesting. This year, we’ll be growing garlic in our garden! More to come on that…
Get your greens on! Increasing your greens during this time of year is essential. You’re probably not craving a salad, unless you live in southern, sunny California. Then lucky you! For the rest of us who see winter coming, winter salads, sautéed greens, green in your eggs, smoothies or juices, any and all forms of greens will help boost your immune system into overdrive with the multitudes of vitamins and nutrients they provide. My top favs are the ever popular kale, spinach (it’s mild so the kids love it), and collards. Anything that’s darker than iceberg will do!
And the big, undercover doozy is a secret super food weapon: fermented foods. Anything fermented is going to increase the good gut bacteria in your body and help you in the battle to fight off those pesky bugs. I know, I know. When I hear the word “fermented” I automatically think “ew, gross”. But, there are plenty of tasty fermented foods out there. With the increasingly popular farmers’ markets and local food frenzy, you’re bound to see and experiment with even more fermented foods. One of my local favs is a fermented salsa from Full Quiver Farms. Super tasty and easy to throw on eggs, in a taco, or to snack on by itself. Hat Creek Pickle Co has fermented carrots that’s an easy win with kids!
Speaking of kiddos, our family drinks a fermented “soda” called kombucha. This drink is extremely expensive to buy at the store and extremely cheap to make at home. The kids love it and beg for it. I’ll be hitting up the DIY page to give you the skinny on homemade ‘buch. They also love kefir. There are two types of kefir- dairy kefir and water kefir. We are fine drinking the dairy kefir, despite some dairy intolerances, but will definitely be playing with water kefir in the near future.
And finally, drum roll please…the fermentation super star that’s near and dear to my heart. The one, the only… kimchee! This amazing superfood is a Korean tradition of pickling cabbage and letting it ferment underground. But any kimchee is a winner with me – especially cucumber and radish. Hold on to your seats if you’ve never had these. Kimchee is definitely a lifelong favorite of mine, bringing back so many childhood memories, and I never even knew it was so good for me!
The great thing about fermented foods is that they are extremely nutrient dense, you only need a few bites. There are more probiotics in a few bites of kimchee than the recommended dosage of OTC probiotics from the store. Just sayin’.
Foods to steer clear of, especially during the cold and flu season:
Heavy amounts of dairy (especially pasteurized)
And the ultimate culprit – SUGAR
Did you know there’s a war going on in your belly? Seriously. The good gut bacteria and the bad gut bacteria are fighting to take control of your immune system. Sugar kills the good gut bacteria, thus leading the bad bacteria troops to increasing victories. Tis the season to indulge, but try a new twist on traditional favorites, like paleo or raw desserts. How you feed both bacteria and arm your troops decides who wins the battles, and sometimes the war.
+++++Please remember I am not a doctor or a physician. I am merely an OCD mom who has scoured the internet and books researching food, health and wellness, has a health coach certification and prays for guidance. If you are having any physical issues, please consult your doctor or physician for assistance.
Love and Joy!