25 Jun Foods to boost seniors’ immunity
Winter is upon us. And winter means cold and flu season. Last year’s flu season in Australia was the worst since the 2009 pandemic. The 2017 season came earlier, the flu vaccine was less effective and there were more deaths, particularly amongst the elderly. So, what can you do to help boost your residents’ immunity?
As we age, our immune system response slows down. This means we become more susceptible to infections, inflammatory diseases and cancer. In fact, the leading causes of death for people over age 65 across the world are respiratory infections: influenza and pneumonia. Fortunately, there are many natural foods that can help strengthen our immunity and the following are some foods to consider as you plan winter menus for your residents.
- Garlic. While its aroma may not please everyone, garlic is a great first line of defense to fight infection and bacteria. Garlic contains allicin which breaks down to form sulfur containing compounds which can markedly improve the immune system. Garlic also increases the production of natural killer cells, which are fundamental to fighting viruses like the common cold. Good for stocks, stews and curries. A cracker flavour boost when combined with parsley as gremolata on slow braised lamb shanks.
- Ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Spicy and invigorating, these aromatics can help to stoke our ‘internal fire’ and keep our digestive engine working efficiently. When you combine them with lemon and honey in a winter-warming drink, you get a powerful concoction that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to support the body’s natural defenses and increase metabolism. Good for curries, soups and as a great alternative to coffee or tea.
- Oranges and lemons. Citrus fruit is now in season and is one of nature’s best sources of vitamin C, a key nutrient for supporting your immune system. Providing up to 116% of your daily vitamin C, oranges are rich in flavonoids, a class of antioxidants that may reduce risk for heart disease, as well as potassium, a key nutrient for regulating blood pressure. Fresh lemon juice can brighten and balance flavours in dishes. The acidity lightens up earthy or bitter flavours, making vegetables taste better, and it can tone down an overly sweet dessert or too-salty entree. Good for marmalades, chutneys and relishes or dressings and marinades; chicken, fish, and tofu dishes; and of course, sweet desserts.
- Mushrooms. Rising with the autumn rains, mushrooms provide many of the same nutritional benefits as vegetables, as well as attributes commonly found in meat, beans and grains. Studies show that mushrooms can increase the production and activity of white blood cells. Look out for in season field, pine and slippery jack mushrooms. Good for soups, slow meat braises, pastas, pies, even breakfast mushrooms on toast.
- Sweet potatoes. Skin is one of the most important parts of our immune system, and is the first barrier to prevent disease. Sweet potato contains beta-carotene which turns into vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a major role in the production of connective tissue in the skin. Good for soups, stews and roasts, sweet potatoes partner beautifully with carrot, fennel, lamb and beef.
- Oats and barley. Winter is a time for hearty breakfasts and what better way to start the day than with a rib-sticking, slow energy release porridge? Oats and barley have beta-glucan – a type of fibre with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties to potentially speed up wound healing and assist antibiotics in your system. Good one! Good for porridges, crumble toppings and to add good fibre in meatloaf.
- Tea. Packed with antioxidants, theanine, vitamins C, B2 and E, folic acid and B-carotine, people who drink green tea may benefit from lower blood pressure, increased mental alertness, but thanks to the calming amino acid, theanine, a simultaneous, relaxing effect. Black tea can treat headache and lower blood pressure and help to prevent heart disease, including hardening of the arteries. Good for soothing ticklish throats with lemon and honey and a delightful excuse to bake a madeira tea cake.
Included below are some of our favourite winter dishes from the SoupedUp recipe library using the ingredients above. Enjoy!