5 Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter + Immunity Soup Recipe

Photo by Kelley Melvin

Photo by Kelley Melvin

I don't know about you guys but I think the flu shot is whack. I used to get it every year when I was younger but I've read some articles recently which suggest that it's actually not even that great at preventing the flu. In fact, a study at the University of Minnesota found that receiving a flu shot for one strain my contribute to a higher risk of contraction and severity from the flu of a different strain the following year. Additionally, I don't like the toxins that are in the vaccine. For example, Fluzone contains formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Yuck! No, thank you. 

I am not trying to persuade you one way or another, just merely informing you of some of the risks associated with the flu vaccine, and giving you ways to boost your immunity during flu season with alternative methods! So let's get to it, shall we? 

1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is critically important for our immune system and most of us are deficient. The Vitamin D Council suggests that our vitamin D level should be between 50-80 ng/ml. Most people come in around 35 ng/ml or below. There are many reasons why so many of us are deficient, but here are a few: instead of spending our lives outside, we live in houses, work in buildings and commune by cars where we get zero UVB radiation; we don't eat the traditional diet of cold water fish, fish oil and organ meats (all high in vitamin D) like our ancestors used to; and we lather ourselves in sunscreen, which blocks the good UVB radiation, whenever we go outside. The list goes on, but what is important is that it's really tough to get sufficient vitamin D naturally and therefore almost all of us need to supplement, especially in the winter. A vitamin D3 supplement derived from sheep lanolin is the best. Generally people need between 4000 - 5000 IU per day to get optimized vitamin D. In addition to your supplement, try to up your intake of salmon, sardines, mackeral, shrimp, cod, eggs, fortified yogurt, and organ meats (if you're brave). 

2. Turmeric 

You may have heard how turmeric is an all-around rock star of a spice. It's warming, immune-boosting, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-microbial. We know that 80% of our immune system is in our gut. Turmeric does a great job of gently scrubbing the intestinal wall to keep the environment in our gut conducive to healthy, immune-producing microbes. A study showed that piperine (the active component in black pepper) can increase the absorption of curcumin (the active component in turmeric) by 2000%! So when you add turmeric to your soups, stews, eggs, etc., add a grind of black pepper to increase turmeric's bio-availability. I also love adding turmeric to my smoothies. Give this one a try! 

3. Ashwaganda

Ashwaganda is a warm, heavy and sweet root that is one of most immune-boosting adaptogens out there! It helps the body adapt to stress without unwanted stimulation, and in fact also supports natural sleep cycles by helping the body to maintain adequate energy levels to calm itself down and sleep restfully. In the daytime, it helps support the immune system and musculoskeletal systems, both of which may be negatively impacted by stress. The easiest way to get it in you is to take it as a supplement. 

4. Astragalus 

Astragalus is prized as an immunomodulator. It will help to make your immune response more effective without causing your immune system to become overactive. There have been many clinical studies showing how astragalus not only boosts the immune system, but also encourages an increase in immune cell activity, production, and function. Look for it at the Asian market and chuck it into soups like in the recipe below.

5. Eat Nature's Harvest 

To stay balanced this winter, focus on foods that are warm, moist, heavy and oily. Good choices are soups, nuts, warm grains and other high fat and high protein foods. If you love root veggies as much as I do, this is your time to gorge on them! Rutabegas, turnips, parsnips, carrots, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, beets! They're so delicious and easy to prepare. They all do well with the roasting method which is what I use the most. But you can also try steaming them to make a root veggie mash, adding in some warming, winter spices, like cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne. Winter is also a good opportunity to increase your animal protein intake. Break out your crock pot and make a roast chicken, lamb tagine, or beef and squash chili. Yum!

For more stay-healthy-during-winter tips, check out this post!

Whip up this yummy soup for a big ass immune boost!

Chicken and Ginger Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 split chicken breasts (this means bone in, skin on)
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms
  • 6 slices of dried astragalus root
  •  ½ white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped small
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • ginger root (use about 3 inch slice), cut into strips
  • large bunch of kale, leaves and stems chopped seperately
  • cup of fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • cup of fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper (add this to each individual bowl as you like)

Directions

Fill a pot up about one third of the way with filtered water and toss in some sea salt, ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Bring water to a simmer. Add the split breast (after pulling off the fat and skin — a little left is fine). Add ginger, astragalus, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, kale stem and shiitake mushrooms to the soup. Let this cook for about 30 minutes to an hour. When it's almost finished cooking, add the kale leaves. Cut up the parsley and cilantro, and put a little on the bottom of your bowl. Scoop out the soup and place it on top. If you want to add some additional slices of ginger (not too much), and cayenne pepper, you’ll really open up your sinuses for a good, healthy blow. Enjoy!