immune boosting foods - complete with recipe ideas

by nutritionist Maxine Sheils BSc (Hons) 

We were fortunate enough to have a beautifully long summer but that’s a far cry from the current cold weather, so we thought this would be the perfect time to share our favourite immune-boosting foods before those office sniffles start. It happens every time the weather changes, one person in the office has a cough and before you know it, you’re feeling run down for the next week or so. Fortunately for the Igennus office (and it may be somewhat of an occupational ‘hazard’), we rarely see a sick day, so we’re definitely doing something right. Here are the 5 foods that you can find in our cupboards that may have something to do with it… 


Boosting immunity with foods and homemade herbal teas


You may have already noticed, but we love turmeric at Igennus, so much so, we took the most beneficial component (curcumin), used the most up-to-date technology (Longvida) and bottled it. Whilst the raw ingredient isn’t as potent, it’s definitely a staple in our herb and spice cabinet. Turmeric’s beneficial element is curcumin, which makes up around 4% – 8% of turmeric. It’s great for reducing inflammation associated with the common cold; it’s antimicrobial, meaning that it will help the body fend off any nasty bacteria from unwell co-workers; it has antioxidant activity to protect cells from the damaging effects of bacteria and virus, and has even been shown to help modulate the immune system. Finally, if you’re prone to respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, laryngitis or sinusitis, you’ll be happy to hear that turmeric also has positive effects on the respiratory tract. Need I say more? 8 grams of turmeric are found to increase blood levels to a therapeutic amount so it’s time to get cooking up a dhal, or try your hand at a turmeric latte.


Not only does garlic keep the vampires away, it’ll also keep those other nasty bugs at bay too. Another herb with antioxidant and antibacterial activity that will have positive effects on your immune system, garlic is also an antiviral, meaning that if you get cold sores when you’re run down, garlic is going to be your saviour. It’s also proven its worth as a protector against human rhinovirus, the main culprit to blame for the common cold. So put the tissue box down, and get cooking some garlic-roasted vegetables. Yes, the house will smell of garlic, but they’ll taste utterly delicious and you’ll be reaping the benefits.


Ginger is one of our top immune boosting foods

This common kitchen spice features heavily in our meals during the cooler months. Why? Because it’s not only warming, but it also has so many health benefits that we want to benefit from. Like turmeric, it also has antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and respiratory benefits, but on top of that, it also has anti-emetic properties, meaning that if you’re suffering with any nausea or vomiting as a side effect of illness, you’re going to be wanting a lot of ginger. We love this in curries, homemade ginger tea with added lemon, and in homemade treats such as ginger and walnut loaf.

Manuka Honey

What’s the difference between honey and Manuka honey, that we spend an awful lot more on what sounds like the same thing – honey? All honey is produced from bees and extracted from hives; however, with Manuka honey, the bees produce it from the flower of the Manuka tree. Native to New Zealand, Manuka honey contains methylglyoxal (MGO), the active ingredient believed to contain antibacterial properties. We love this for wounds or sore throats, but it’s even an FDA-approved medical device for supporting wound healing, and has been shown to reduce wound healing time of diabetic foot ulcers when the dressing contained Manuka honey.

Tip: When Ocado sell Manuka honey with a MGO of 550+ at £99, and Tesco sell Manuka honey with NPA 15+ for £19.90, it all gets a little confusing as to what’s really worth investing money in. Fortunately, we’ve found this helpful chart on different ratings for Manuka (i.e. UMF, NPA, MGO); basically, the higher the score the better. Still, there’s a lot of choice out there so go with what suits your budget and only use it when needed.  

Chart to explain Manuka ratings - another immune boosting food

Apple cider vinegar

Not the most obvious one perhaps, however apple cider vinegar (ACV) is great for stimulating the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes in those with low levels, to help aid digestion of food. Stomach acid is also required to kill off any bacteria in food so if levels are low, it’s easy for a bacterial infection to hit from the ingestion of contaminated food. Whilst it’s worth investigating levels of stomach acid with a nutritionist and reasons for low levels, a quick solution in the meantime does involve the use of apple cider vinegar. Alone, it’s not particularly that palatable but it’s time to get experimenting with recipes as you can make some delicious salad dressing using ACV. It can be whisked together to make a salad dressing with added olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and wholegrain mustard.

And there we have it, our top 5 immune-boosting foods straight from the kitchen cupboards. If you’re feeling really brave, you could try my own personal cold remedy. As soon as I feel a sniffle that feels like it has the potential to grow into a full blown cold, I pour some warm water into a cup, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves, grate a nub of ginger, add a good serving of turmeric, a splash of ACV and a bit of Manuka honey and throw it back quickly before I can taste it. It works for me but, as I said, you need to be feeling brave.  

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If you require further support, feel free to contact our approachable team of nutrition professionals who will be more than happy to support you further or point you in the right direction.

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