Author Dr. Crionna Tobin, PhD
Note: This article is supporting content to the Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance course and is for educational purposes only. It does not reflect the opinion of Glanbia Performance Nutrition, nor is it intended for product marketing purposes.
January is finally over and with it come thoughts of warmer weather and brighter evenings. However, Jack Frost, snowball fights and bitter cold weather can always be expected in the weeks to come, along with an increasing susceptibility for us all to colds, flus and low immunity.
We all know that packing our diet with nutrient dense foods is a sound way to ensure our immune system is supported1. However, translating this into practical ways to get this food into our client’s daily nutrition routine can prove more difficult. To make this a little simpler for you and your client I have created 3 nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare recipes you can share with your clients, while also giving them some top tips around supplement use to further support immunity.
Recipes to Support Immunity
One of the best ways to conveniently pack the diet with nutrition! Blueberries, blackberries and strawberries are a great source of Vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant and may help reduce the length and severity of illness.
Mixed Berry Smoothie Recipe
200g Natural Yoghurt, 200ml Almond milk, 1 banana, large handful mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries are great choices), 5 Brazil nuts
- Pour 200ml Almond milk (or an alternative milk/water if you prefer) in to your smoothie jug.Add the yoghurt, banana, berries and Brazil nuts then blend until smooth.
- If you prefer your smoothie a bit thicker in consistency then throw a handful of ice cubes in the mix also!
On a cold winter’s day, nothing beats a warm mug of soup. Broccoli and potatoes are a great source of Vitamin C, while kale and cabbage contain Iron which plays a vital role in red blood cell production, which is fundamental for normal development of the immune system. The Vitamin C in the soup will also support the absorption of the iron so you get full benefits from this hearty recipe.
Vegetable Soup Recipe
1 head of broccoli chopped, 3 handfuls of fresh kale or spinach, 2 medium chopped white potatoes, 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, 1/2 chopped onion, large handful of frozen peas, pint of vegetable stock.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick saucepan or large flame-proof casserole dish and fry the onion and garlic gently for 5 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. While the onion is frying, cut the potatoes into roughly 2cm chunks.
- Add the potatoes to the pan and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, or until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally.
- Add the broccoli, peas and the stock into the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 45 minutes, stirring every now and then.
- Add the spinach and kale to the pan with the vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened, stirring regularly.
- Serve up, and enjoy!
A stir fry is another easy way to get loads of immune boosting foods in one hit. A multitude of vegetables but also the addition of some herbs and spices such as, ginger and turmeric will support the immune system and also provide lots of flavour to the dish.
Prawn Stir Fry Recipe
1 pack (approx. 150g) prawns, large handful mixed peppers, mushrooms, spinach, kale and bean sprouts. 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, ½ tsp turmeric, sprinkle of cayenne pepper
- Heat a drizzle of oil/few sprays of low-cal in a frying pan or wok, and cook the peppers over a medium heat for a 1-2 minutes until slightly soft.
- Add the rest of the vegetables to the pan, stirring all the time.
- Grate the ginger, and add along with the turmeric and cayenne and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the prawns and heat through, then serve on a warmed plate and enjoy!
Supplement Strategies to Support Immunity
Maximising your nutrition through food is key, however there are some supplements which may be of benefit also.
Why: There is some evidence to suggest supplementing with Vitamin C can help reduce the severity and duration of the common cold 2
How: Between 200-500 mg daily. A capsule or effervescent tablet/powder are both easy ways to include this in your diet.
When: At any time of the day, but preferably with a meal.
Why: Primarily known for its role in bone health, vitamin D also plays a major role in supporting immune function1. It’s found in small amounts of some foods such as oily fish, fortified milks & cereals, egg yolks and mushrooms but it is primarily synthesised when the skin is exposed to sunlight. During the winter this can be a problem as we get very little sunlight.
How: A supplemental form of vitamin D3 at a daily dose of 1000 IU is advisable during winter months. However, I would recommend getting your and your clients vitamin D levels checked by a GP to determine whether supplementation is needed. The ideals levels of vitamin D are between 40 and 80 ng/mL.
When: Preferably at a meal time.
Why: If you are already showing symptoms of a cold then zinc lozenges may help to fight it off 4.
How: Aim for at least 75mg daily, and ensure it is zinc lozenge form not tablets, as it needs to dissolve in your mouth and act on the cells lining your throat 3.
When: Regularly throughout day as needed.
These simple recipes and supplement additions can support your client’s immune system through the final days of winter and ensure they maintain their training goals into Spring.
For more insight into nutrition for immunity check out: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/playing/food-for-rugby/nutrition-guide/immune-function
1. Nieman, D.C. Pedersen, B.K., 1999. Exercise and immune function. Recent developments. Sports Medicine
2. Hemila, H. Chalker, E. , 2013. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane
3. Hemila, H. , 2011. Zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of colds: A Systematic Review. The Open Respiratory Medicne Journal