Immunity is a hot topic for parents right now. With the pandemic ongoing and flu season setting in, you may be looking to boost your family’s immunity.
In this uncertain time, it’s important for us parents to feel empowered by what we can do, rather than worrying about what we can’t change. Although there’s no guarantee that we won’t fall sick, there are small steps we can make to build up our defences – and it all starts in the kitchen.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about kitchen tips that can boost your family’s immunity naturally.
Kitchen Tips To Boost Your Family’s Immunity Naturally
Here at Natural Super Kids, we are big believers when it comes to food as medicine. What we eat or don’t eat makes a huge difference when it comes to our immune health as well as overall wellbeing.
There are many foods that contain nutrients and compounds that support immune health. Some build up the immune system, and others are antibacterial, antiviral or antimicrobial. We love the foods that can do all of those at the same time!
The best part is that you only need to include small amounts of these foods to make a difference. Our head naturopath Jess Donovan has brought together some practical ways to include these healthy ingredients into the family diet.
A simple and relatively affordable way to boost your family’s immunity is garlic. You can use garlic in almost any savoury recipe, but it goes particularly well in soups and sauces.
Why garlic? It is fantastic for the immune system. Garlic can reduce the risk of infection, as well as reducing the severity of symptoms if you do fall sick.
When it comes to adding garlic in, there are a few handy tips to keep in mind:
- Buy Australian grown garlic whenever you can. A lot of the garlic sold in supermarkets comes from Mexico or China. There are two potential problems with this. The first is there are less strict rules around agriculture in these countries, which can mean use of dangerous chemicals. The second is that as garlic ages, it loses its beneficial properties. So by the time it reaches us here in Australia, it is less potent.
- When using garlic, chop or crush it, then leave for 5-10 minutes. By crushing it and allowing it to sit, you activate the immune-boosting and antimicrobial properties of garlic. It also makes the beneficial compounds more heat-tolerant.
- Don’t cook it for too long! The medicinal properties of garlic can be damaged by prolonged heat. Try to add it towards the end of the cooking process. For recipes like bolognese, saute it in with the meat and vegetables instead of at the very start.
- Small amounts add up. You don’t have to add 8 cloves of garlic to your dinner for your family to benefit. Even just adding one extra clove to a recipe will add some flavour and medicinal properties without overwhelming the dish.
Another favourite is chicken broth, or bone broth. As the weather cools down, it’s easy to incorporate into soups, casseroles and sauces. If your kids love rice, you can cook rice and other grains in broth instead of plain water. You can even sneak a little bit into a smoothie!
You can get pre-made chicken stock in a powder or paste form. But now is the perfect time to have a go at making your own!
To make the most of her time and prepare two meals at once, this is how Jess makes a batch of chicken broth:
- Add a whole raw chicken and an extra chicken carcass (you can find these at the butcher or farmers market) to a large pot
- Fill with water and add a dash of apple cider vinegar – this helps to release the nutrients from the bones
- Add in some veg such as onion, celery and carrot for flavour and extra nutrition
- Bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer. Allow to simmer for a couple of hours
- Remove the whole chicken, and take the meat and skin off. You can use these later to make it into chicken soup, or you can use it for wraps, pizza and other meals
- Put the bones back in, and simmer for 6-8 hours on a low heat
- Strain into a heat-proof dish such as Pyrex or stainless steel. If you want to put it into a plastic container or an ice cube tray, allow it to cool before straining
Looking for some inspiration? Check out some of our favourite broth-based recipes here.
Fermented vegetables are a great source of good bacteria that support a healthy gut and immune system. But fermenting vegetables also optimise the nutritional content by making the nutrients easier to absorb.
It’s not always easy to get veggies into kids, let alone fermented veggies! But it is possible to do with a few little tricks.
- Try some different flavours – kids are unlikely to love a turmeric and ginger sauerkraut as much as we are! But they might be happy with a sweeter, milder option. One of the local South Australian brands has an apple and dill sauerkraut that is a hit with the kids.
- Try a different vegetable – cabbage might not be something your kids are willing to try. So why not give a sweeter, more familiar vegetable a go? Beetroot and carrot are two good options to try out.
- Start with exposure – fermented veggies are an acquired taste. Start by putting it in the middle of the dinner table, and encouraging them to put one strand or piece on the side of their plate. They can lick it and spit it out if they don’t like it. The more they are exposed to a new food, the more familiar it becomes and the more comfortable they are with it. It does takes time, but kids can fall in love with fermented veg!
- Make it a science project – if you’re homeschooling at the moment, fermenting vegetables is a great science project. The more involved kids are with their food, the more likely they are to try it.
Adding herbs to your cooking is another great way to boost your family’s immunity. Oregano and thyme are two of the best culinary herbs for your immune system. They are anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-viral all in one. Thyme is particularly good for respiratory infections and coughs.
Oregano is easy to add to favourites such as lasagna, pasta and pizza. Thyme goes beautifully with chicken – mix some lemon juice, thyme and garlic for a tasty chicken marinade.
You can buy also these herbs in a supplement form or as an essential oil. However, we don’t recommend taking these essential oils internally, as they can impact on the healthy bacteria in the gut. Instead, diffuse them in the house or add them to your homemade cleaning products. If you’re interested in a supplement to support immunity, you can book an express consultation with one of our naturopaths here.
A variety of colourful fruit and veg
Your immune-boosting nutrients are always found in wholefoods. But colourful fruit and veggies are some of the most important wholefoods when it comes to supporting a healthy immune system.
Fruit and veggies are full of antioxidants that support a healthy gut, immune system and overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, many antioxidants are damaged by cooking. That’s why it’s important to incorporate some raw fruit and veggies every day.
Some antioxidant-rich options to include are:
- Capsicum (all colours)
- Green and red cabbage
- Leafy green veggies such as kale and spinach
Different colours offer different antioxidants with different benefits. Switch it up whenever you can – buy green apples one week and red apples the next, or alternate between red onion, brown onion and spring onions.
Looking for more ways to boost your family’s immunity naturally? Make sure you download our FREE Foods To Boost Immunity Cheat Sheet here.