It’s the start of a New Year, which means everyone is getting their smoothie on to improve nutrition and eat healthier. It’s also the dead of winter, which means that cold and flu season is rearing its ugly head. Over the holidays, my Mom, Dad and sister all came down with a cold. Lucky for me, I fought off whatever it was that ailed them. My secret to avoiding the cold and flu like the plague? Well besides adequate sleep, regular movement and keeping stress at bay, it’s SMOOTHIES! I try to stockpile immune-boosting ingredients in my pantry during the winter so that I can load up on them regularly for prevention, especially when I feel those first signs of a cold coming on.
The immune system is a complex system with cells, tissues and organs, each with a specific role in fighting against harmful bacteria and viruses. Because it’s so complex, researchers are constantly trying to figure it out, which is why much of the research on diet to support immunity is preliminary. But as I talk about in my e-book, Nourish Your Namaste: How Nutrition and Yoga Can Support Digestion, Immunity, Energy and Relaxation, I’ll take preliminary research over catching a cold any day!
For example, research shows that various nutrient deficiencies – vitamins A, C, E, B, D, selenium, zinc, iron, copper and folic acid – can compromise your immune system and increase your susceptibility to cold and flu. So, when it comes to boosting your immunity, focus on choosing foods high in these vitamins and minerals, like oranges (vitamin C), sweet potatoes (vitamin A), kale (vitamin E), mushrooms (selenium and vitamin D) and garbanzo beans (zinc).
Smoothies are the perfect vehicle to load up on immune-boosting ingredients. While you probably wouldn’t sit down to a meal to eat a sweet potato, an orange, some kale, ginger root and kefir, you could throw all those things into a smoothie and easily drink it before work (or better yet, take it to the office with you)! Smoothies are an easy way to get in a lot of immune-boosting foods at once.
Wondering what some of my favorite immune boosting smoothie ingredients are for the winter? Add these to any smoothie for a boost!
- Wild Blueberries: The tiny delicious berries are packed with antioxidants, in fact they contain 2x the antioxidants of regular (cultivated) blueberries. Every day, our cells wage a battle against free radicals – unstable oxygen molecules that are a normal byproduct of metabolism. When you aren’t getting enough antioxidants in your diet, free radicals can build up in your body, causing oxidative stress, which is associated with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases of aging. Dietary antioxidants such as anthocyanins, flavonoids found in the blue pigments of Wild Blueberries, have the ability to neutralize free radicals and help prevent cell damage. Antioxidants can also protect against inflammation, which may play a role in supporting our immune system. And these special little Wild Blueberries are found in the freezer aisle of your grocery store and available all year long and perfect for smoothies.
- Turmeric. Spice up your immune system with curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric that gives it its vibrant orange/yellow color. Curcumin has been shown to enhance antibodies and immune cells, which help protect us from viruses and bacteria. Sprinkle a dash of turmeric in your next smoothie for a functional boost and mild peppery flavor.
- Ginger. This spice is known for a host of health benefits, especially its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.. Sprinkle ground ginger or grate fresh ginger root into your next smoothie for a warm, spicy bite!
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Vinegar inhibits the enzymes that help you digest starch. This undigested starch acts as a prebiotic as it passes through your digestive system. You can think of prebiotics as food for your probiotics, supporting the growth of good-gut bacteria. Prebiotics and probiotics (and a healthy gut) help to support our immune systems. This doesn’t mean you should start drinking vinegar out of the bottle; however. A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in your daily smoothie is plenty.
- Kefir. Including adequate amounts of probiotics (found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt and miso) in your diet is important to restore healthy bacteria in your gut to protect you from infections. Kefir, an ancient fermented milk beverage, packs in 12 different types of probiotics, which is 3x the amount yogurt contains! Add kefir to your smoothie for its probiotic punch as well as its creamy, rich consistency.
- Green Tea. Antioxidants found in green tea (specifically the polyphenols, catechins) have been shown to have antiviral and antimicrobial effects, especially against the flu. Next time you’re adding liquid to your smoothie, swap out coconut water or milk for green tea for an antioxidant boost!
For an immune-boost this winter, try my Wild Blueberry Turmeric Zinger Smoothie, complete with turmeric, ginger, apple cider vinegar, mango and citrus.