With cold and flu season in full swing, here are five strategies to help boost your immune system from our friend and Dietitian Zannat Reza:

  1. Get enough sleep: between 6 to 8 hours should do the trick; lack of sleep puts the body under stress. Try unplugging any distracting electronics at least 30 minutes before you head into bed.
  2. Manage stress: stress impairs the immune system; try yoga, meditation, being active to deal with the day-to-day annoyances of life. If you work in an office make sure to get away from the computer screen every once in a while and get some fresh air to help distress.
  3. Be active, preferably in nature: bundle up and go for a walk in a park, go tobogganing, skating or skiing; build a snowman, being in nature has immune-boosting properties.
  4. Wash your hands: use warm, soapy water for 20 seconds (helpful hint: hum Happy Birthday twice).
  5. Eat good food: follow the 80-20 rule; load up on wholesome food 80 per cent of the time (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins).

You can also boost your immune system by making sure you take in these important nutrients:

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is found foods like sweet potato, pumpkin and carrots. Try this delicious Curried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pilaf!

Vitamin C: You can find vitamin C in sweet peppers, broccoli and of course oranges! Boost your immune system and vitamin C intake with this orange berry smoothie!

Vitamin B6: This vitamin is found in dark leafy greens, papayas and cantaloupe. Give your body its dose of B6 by adding spinach, kale and brussels sprouts to your salads.

Vitamin E: Not only are avocados absolutely delicious but they’ve got vitamin E. Start your day off with a yummy intake of vitamin E in this avocado breakfast bruschetta.

Stay healthy this season by making sure you eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies to make sure that you get all the vitamins needed to boost your immune system. Filling half of your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal is an easy way to make sure you’re hitting your mark!

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When I toss romaine hearts into my shopping cart, chances are I'm heading home to make my family’s favourite salad. Every cook should know the joy of crafting a true Caesar salad while avoiding the also-ran dressings at the supermarket that never quite measure up to the real thing. Over time we’ve experimented with lots of additional flavours in this salad but, more often than not, I toss in lots of fresh basil leaves and brightly flavoured cherry tomatoes. What a great way to fill Half Your Plate! SERVES 4 TO 6 For the croutons 1 baguette, cut into large bite-sized cubes 1/4 cup (60 mL) of water 1/4 cup (60 mL) of your best olive oil For the dressing 6 thick slices of bacon, finely cut 1/4 cup (60 mL) of extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup (60 mL) of Dijon mustard 4 cloves of garlic a full 2-ounce (50 g) can of anchovies the zest and juice of 2 lemons 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of honey a dash or two of your favourite hot sauce For the salad 3 hearts of romaine lettuce, rinsed and sliced into bite sized pieces 1 large bunch of basil leaves 2-ounces or so of Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved into thin pieces with a vegetable peeler 1 pound of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Turn on your convection fan if you have one. Begin with the croutons. Sprinkle the bread cubes with water and toss until evenly absorbed. Continue tossing with the oil until it too is absorbed. Spread the works out on a baking tray and bake until the croutons are crispy, crunchy and thoroughly golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and cool while you prepare the rest of the salad. Make the dressing. Toss the bacon and a big splash of water into a pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the bacon is fully browned and evenly crispy, 10 minutes or so. Strain off the bacon bits and reserve for garnishing. Reserve all, some or none of the tasty fat. Measure the oil, Dijon, garlic, anchovies, lemon zest and juice, honey and hot sauce into your blender or food processor. Add the reserved bacon fat. Purée until smooth. Make the salad. In a large salad bowl toss together the romaine leaves, basil leaves, croutons and tomatoes. Pour in the dressing and toss the works until the salad is evenly dressed. Top with the bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve and share! Freestyle Flavour You can easily elevate this salad into an entire meal by adding lots of your favourite protein. Try grilling off a few chicken breasts and thinly slicing them into the works. A filet or two of salmon, grilled steak, pork tenderloin, even chunks of tofu can be added for a full protein kick.
Basil Caesar Salad
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