Ten Foods to Boost Your Immune System

It’s hard to know where to start when cooking for your immune system with a student budget and attention-span. With coronavirus making us suspicious of every sniffle, as well as placing pressure on mental health, it’s the perfect time to try and nail it.

Your body is a temple, after all. These foods are not magic cures for all our ailments, but keep your body ticking along by filling it with vitamins and friendly bacteria. Ditch those soggy salad bags and replace them with these inexpensive yet powerful ingredients.

Healthy eating resources:

  • Dr. Sam Watts’ Mind-Body Medical
  • ‘Happy Food’ by Henrik Ennart and Niklas Ekstedt
  • ‘The Roasting Tin’ by Rukmini Iyer
  • Save the Student’s weekly meal plan

1. Citrus

The strange threat of scurvy rings in every student’s ears as they drift past the easy peelers on their weekly shop. You don’t want to get scurvy. However, citrus also reduces inflammation, is packed with fibre, vitamins B and C, potassium, magnesium, and more.

Bored of oranges? Opt for a grapefruit juice or season your meals with lime juice.

Favourite recipe: Bon Appetit’s Blood Orange Jell-O Shots


2. Garlic

This powerful antioxidant contains vitamins B6 and C, as well as healthy amounts of fibre, calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamin B1. This decreases blood pressure, prevents common colds, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, and even increases life expectancy.

Opt for fresh garlic over granulated and whack it in a pan with your oils and sauces or roast it, for a deliciously sweet paste.

Favourite recipe: New York Times’ Midnight Pasta with Olive Oil and Chilli


3. Ginger

This anti-inflammatory warrior aids digestion, eases nausea and helps protect against colds. Grating your ginger roots and steeping them in hot water with honey is like the elixir of life when you have the flu.

Make some tea or a hearty stir-fry, or add it to cakes, juices, and oils.
Favourite recipe: Plant-Based Cooking’s Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Ginger Hot Cocoa


4. Turmeric

A close relative to ginger, this earthy powder is the unsung hero of the spice rack. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers are well documented but it’s also a ‘happy food’ which can boost your serotonin.

Buy turmeric powder and use it as seasoning in curries or add it to cakes and hot drinks for a delicious earthy undertone.

Favourite recipe: Minimalist Baker’s Healing Three Ingredient Turmeric Tonic


5. Probiotic Yoghurt

Cultured yoghurts can be used as a base for beautiful breakfasts rivalling the ones you see on your Instagram feed. Preventative and anti-inflammatory, probiotics provide all the friendly bacteria you need to improve your immune system.

Adding nuts or fruit to fermented yoghurt elevates the health benefits and means you never experience breakfast boredom.

Favourite recipe: BBC Good Food’s Tzatziki.


6. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins and acids which all aid your digestive system, heart, and skin. Some even say that eating mushrooms every day can reduce the risk of developing neurological disorders.

Hate mushrooms? Nope, you hate the mushrooms you’ve tried. Forget the rubber you’re served at a hotel’s continental breakfast, and experiment. You can even buy dried mushroom tea now, so there are no excuses to avoid them.

Favourite recipe: MOB Kitchen’s Mushroom Gnocchi Bake

7. Spinach

Spinach is the easiest iron-rich food you can incorporate into your meals, but it’s also an important source of vitamins K, A, B2, and C, manganese, magnesium, and folate.

Add to smoothies or to any meal as a side (it’s particularly decadent when cooked in butter with an extortionate amount of garlic).

Favourite recipe: BBC Good Food’s Chickpea, Tomato, and Spinach Curry


8. Miso Soup

This protein-rich umami ingredient is the perfect substitute for the humble chicken soup when you’re unwell. It’s a fantastic source of vitamins A, B, and E, as well as being chocked full of folic acid. It’s categorised as a probiotic too!

Start your day with miso soup in the morning or marinade your meats in it.

Favourite recipe: MOB Kitchen’s Roasted Butternut Miso Ramen


9. Broccoli

Many of our first foodie memories from childhood will be weeping over a bowl of boiled broccoli you simply did not want to eat. Forget that. Full of vitamins A, C, E, and K, it’s a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory veggie. It’s also packed with calcium and is great for your skin, which is always a bonus.

Roast it, grill it, soup it, steam it. Opt for tender stem broccoli as it’s easier to manage than a huge tree of it.

Favourite recipe: Eating Well’s Kung Pao Broccoli


10. Sweet Potato

One sweet potato contains an abundance of protein, potassium, fibre, and vitamins A, C, B6. Your gut, eyesight, immune system, and general physical health will all thank you. Purple sweet potatoes also reportedly improve brain power so who knows, maybe a humble potato is the key to nailing your dissertation?

The best way to get the silkiest flesh is by roasting them, though they can also be sauteed or grilled. Middle Eastern spices like za’atar and sumac work incredibly well as seasoning.

Favourite recipe: Good Housekeeping’s Supercarb Loaded Sweet Potatoes

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