After a long holiday season of overindulgence and stressful schedules, your immune system might not be in tip top shape. Now that the new year is upon us, a return to a good night’s sleep and plenty of exercise will help get you back on track. So does reworking your diet to include immune-supportive foods. Of course, none of these picks are an instant cure for cold and flu…but they have components that feed proper immune function. Feast upon these powerful plant foods and strengthen your defences!

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha and kimchi (that’s a lot of K’s!) support the immune system by adding beneficial bacteria to your digestive tract. These bacteria help support the immune system by blocking potentially infectious microbes at the gut level, in addition to helping your immune system respond more appropriately to infection. Take fermented food daily – try making your own sauerkraut! – and for added benefit, top up with a therapeutic fermented food like Bio-K+.

Zinc + Protein-rich foods

Both zinc and protein, which are often found together in food, support immune function. Zinc is a co-factor in immune reactions and protein assists in building immune cells. Eat more pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed butter for rich vegan source of zinc and enjoy more nuts, seeds, beans, organic tofu and seafood (if you eat it) to get more zinc-rich protein into your day. In addition, research suggests that a high dose zinc, taken within 24 hours of first cold symptoms, helps to reduce the duration of your cold. Ask your pharmacist or dietitian for more info.

Aromatic Veggies and Herbs

Food is medicine…gradual, incremental medicine when eaten over days and years. Of course, there are a few more potent medicinal foods that are well known in traditional cuisines. These are the aromatics – ginger, turmeric, oregano, rosemary, garlic – foods that have been used as traditional remedies the world over. Some, like turmeric, are especially good at fighting inflammation and help your immune system respond appropriately to threats. Others, like oregano and ginger, have volatile oils that are natural antimicrobials. Add these foods generously to your recipes…and enjoy extra delicious, and extra nourishing, eating!


Mushrooms are unique organisms with a host of potentially beneficial compounds. Polysaccharides in mushrooms, such as beta-glucans, support immune function – as does a vitamin D precursor found in these fungi. Add basic buttons or more exotic varieties such as shiitake (the best researched variety) to soups, stews, casseroles or even a homemade pizza.

When illness strikes…

If you do get sick, turn to foods that help you feel a bit of relief. Drink lots of hot, steamy liquids to help beat congestion and keep you hydrated. If you can stomach them, eat spicy foods to clear the sinuses. Ginger helps to settle the stomach – a honey, lemon and ginger tea is supremely soothing. When you lose your appetite, blend up veg + fruit into a nourishing smoothie that you can sip slowly to keep your strength up.

Get a healthy start to the New Year!