Five immune-boosting foods to keep you healthy in the winter months

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the focus on immune-boosting foods, resulting in consumers making healthier lifestyle and food choices. With winter around the corner, now is the time to consider whether your daily food intake is providing the full health benefits you require. Functional foods, for example, are a critical part of a well-balanced diet because they offer health benefits beyond simple nutritional intake.

According to Registered Dietitian, Megan Pentz-Kluyts, our current interest in health and wellness can lead to a greater understanding of the functional impact of healthier foods. “At the core of science-based nutrition advice is to enjoy eating a variety of foods, every day. It’s this variety that exposes us to benefits from a wide range of foods. Fruit and vegetables are key food groups and should be well-represented in what we eat daily. We can add other foods and beverages that also play a role in the healthy functioning of the body and contribute to strengthening our immune function,” she says.

When it comes to foods with functional benefits, the Libstar family has a diverse portfolio of products that form part of an immune-boosting diet. These include dairy products from LANCEWOOD®, Denny Mushrooms, Khoisan Gourmet Rooibos Tea, Goldcrest honey and nuts from Ambassador Foods

Pentz-Kluyts highlights some of the health benefits offered by these foods with simple ways to incorporate them into your family’s daily eating regime:

Rooibos Tea

You can start the day with a good cup of caffeine-free rooibos tea. This delicious, proudly South African tea is abundant in polyphenols, which are antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory and antiviral. Pentz-Kluyts says, “Rooibos tea can help to fight colds and infections and support the immune system. Rooibos also contains aspalathin, an antidiabetic miracle worker that together with the correct food choices, can help balance glucose levels and improve insulin resistance.[i]

Honey

Used in baking, as an alternative to sugar for sweetening hot drinks and smoothies, or just enjoyed as a healthier spread, raw honey is an age-old remedy and is still commonly used to promote digestive health. “Our digestive system is an integral part of our immune functioning,” Pentz-Kluyts says. “‘Honey is known for its prebiotic qualities, which means it nourishes the good bacteria in our gut.”

Nuts

These are great snacks on their own but can be added to breakfast, lunch and supper dishes, as well as lunchboxes and baked treats. It’s easy to add more nuts into your family’s daily diet, and when you do, you add a nutritional powerhouse. Pentz-Kluyts points out, “As an example, walnuts are loaded with essential fatty acids and minerals like manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. These micro-nutrients play important roles in the functioning of our bodies and can strengthen immune function.”

Dairy

Dairy is a family favourite and greatly valued as an important daily source of calcium for building strong bones and teeth in growing children. It is also an affordable high-quality protein that helps the whole family in maintaining health and building resilience. Pentz-Kluyts says, “It’s less well-known that dairy also contains both Vitamin B12 and selenium which play their roles in healthy immune functioning. Fermented dairy products such as yoghurt contain probiotics, which strengthen immunity by promoting digestive health.”

Setting out to support your family’s health through maintaining the health of their microbiome is an achievable goal. “Based on the increasing knowledge of the microbiome, it’s important to feed the body’s gut flora by eating a more varied diet including lots of high-fibre foods and fermented foods. Kefir, yoghurt and pickles such as sauerkraut and kimchi are all examples of fermented delicacies,” explains Pentz-Kluyts.

Mushrooms

Many families are including more plant-based meals in their eating regimes, and mushrooms have an important role to play in this dietary change. Mushrooms are a low-calorie, low-cholesterol, and low-sodium food with a lot of potential as a meat alternative and as a versatile star ingredient in many different kinds of dishes. “Mushrooms contain powerful polysaccharides called beta-glucans,” says Pentz-Kluyts. “Preliminary evidence suggests that mushrooms may support healthy immune and inflammatory responses through interaction with the gut microbiota, enhancing development of adaptive immunity, and improved immune cell functionality.[ii]

It’s important to know that no one food or food group can prevent sickness, but we can reduce our vulnerabilities to infections through following the South African food-based dietary guidelines and eating a variety of foods. With the winter months fast-approaching, our increased focus on family health and wellness is taking us on a journey to learn more about a wide range of functional foods that can help increase immunity.


[i] Bond TJ, Derbyshire EJ (2020) Rooibos Tea and Health: A Systematic Review of the Evidence from the Last Two Decades. Nutr Food Technol Open Access 6(1): dx.doi.org/10.16966/2470-6086.166

[ii] Feeney MJ, et al. Mushrooms and Health Summit Proceedings. J. Nutr. 144: 1128S–1136S, 2014

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