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5 Simple foods that will boost your immune system

Foods to keep you healthy through the winter months and a recipe for Chick Pea stew

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Winter really gets a bad rap. It’s by far the least favourite season for many, for numerous reasons. It’s cold, really cold here in Canada. It’s also dark, and we are more prone to getting sick, and oh, did I mention, it’s cold?

We tend to lean more on comfort foods in the winter, because they make us feel good, and warm, and can remind us of comforting times. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if we’re feeling blue, we want to make sure we’re staying as healthy and happy as possible. There are foods that can brighten up our days and keep our immune systems booming so we look forward to each and every day-even the coldest ones.

Here are my top five foods to stay healthy and happy through the winter months:

#1. Probiotics

Probiotics keep your belly happy and support a healthy immune system. Probiotics are good bacteria that are in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, and kombucha.

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Not only do probiotics keep your belly happy, they can also improve your mood, help curb stress and lower anxiety.

How to make the most of it: Add yogurt or kefir to your smoothies, or on top your oatmeal. Make sandwiches with sauerkraut or pickles, or add miso to soups and stews.

#2: Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been called the sunshine vitamin because we need the sun for our bodies to produce it. Vitamin D is incredibly important for calcium absorption to reduce inflammation, and fight infections. We simply don’t get enough in Canada during the winter months.

How to make the most of it: Vitamin D is not found in many foods, but increasing your intake of salmon, eggs, dairy, and mushrooms will help. Even eating those foods, though, you’ll most likely need to supplement your diet from October to April.

#3: Protein

Consuming protein-rich foods will provide the body with fuel, but also help to combat the winter chill in the best possible way – by boosting levels of serotonin, a hormone that makes you feel happy. Protein is also incredibly important for muscle repair and recovery. Having strong muscles means we can continue working out. Just be sure to choose lean and nutritious options as often as possible.

How to make the most of it: Incorporate protein into every meal and snack to ensure you’re getting enough and your body is able to digest it. Yogurt, eggs, or nut butters in the morning are a great source, while lean meats, beans, and lentils can carry you throughout the day. Mix it up between meat and plant-based proteins to keep it interesting.

#4: Seasonal Foods

Eating seasonal foods is great for your health, and your mood. Here in Canada, foods that can be found locally in the winter are mostly root vegetables, which are amazing for our health while the temperature drops. Root vegetables are full of vitamin C, vitamin A, fibre, and can be naturally sweet, so we don’t have to chow down on cookies and cake to satisfy our cravings.

How to make the most of it: Roast root vegetables in the oven for dinner or blend them up with some bone broth to make a hearty and delicious soup. Bonus: root vegetables pair well with onions, garlic and ginger, which are amazing foods to help keep our immune system strong and keep the colds and flu away.

#5: Eat the Rainbow

We’ve all heard it before, but there’s actually evidence that shows eating more colourful foods can make you feel happier or energized. Colourful foods also tend to be higher in vitamins and nutrients, so you’re getting more bang for your buck.

How to make the most of it: Try to eat at least two colours a day to start. Green and orange tend to be the easiest ones to find, especially in the winter. Add something green and something orange to your plate every day. Once you’ve got that down, you can move on to the rest of the rainbow. Don’t shy away from frozen vegetables – they’re usually flash frozen on site, which means they retain most of their nutrients.

The winter can make us all feel a bit blah. Making the effort to fuel your body with foods that will keep you healthy and happy is just one way to embrace winter. Try a new sport, like snowshoeing or skating, or at the very least, try to get outside once a day, every day. Let’s make this the best winter yet.

My Sweet Potato Chickpea Stew is a great way to incorporate root vegetables, protein, and a rainbow of vegetables into one warm, comforting, and nutritious meal.

Sweet Potato and Chick Pea Stew

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ head broccoli, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, cleaned and diced
  • 1 handful parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic and carrots in oil until they start to soften.
  • Add sweet potato. Cook another 3-5 minutes.
  • Add broth and bring to a boil. Once all vegetables are soft, take off heat and roughly puree. Leave some chunks of potato and carrot behind.
  • Place back on heat. Add pepper, broccoli, coconut milk and chick peas. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for ten minutes.
  • Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
  • Stays amazing covered in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for three months.
  • Makes 6-8 servings.

Nutrition (approximate):

  • Calories: 115
  • Fat: 2.2g
  • Sodium: 456mg
  • Potassium: 240mg
  • Carbohydrates: 21g
  • Fibre: 4.2g
  • Sugars: 4.9g
  • Protein: 3.2g
  • Vitmin A: 200%
  • Vitamin C: 64%

Seanna Thomas is a regular contributor to Triathlon Magazine Canada. A holistic nutritional consultant based in Toronto, you can find out more about her on her website www.hockeysnacks.com