Essential Foods for Immune Health

Jessica Mosiuk

It’s that time of year again where sniffling, sneezing and coughing abound! Stay healthy this cold
and flu season with these immune boosting foods.

Probiotic-rich foods

Did you know that a large part of your immune system lies in your digestive tract? It’s true! A healthy digestive tract is essential for optimal immune function. Many things found in the North American standard diet such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol, tap water and processed foods cause damage to your digestive system and can lead to an unhealthy gut microbiome. Probiotics are the good bacteria that keep the gut microbiome healthy. They have garnered a lot of attention over the past little while due to the rising popularity of kombucha, a probiotic-rich fermented tea. There are many other foods from which you can get your daily dose of probiotics including miso, fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi and kefir.

A note on sauerkraut and pickles: look for these products in the refrigerated section of your grocery
store. The shelf stable products contain white vinegar, which can irritate the digestive system and
do not contain any probiotics.

Vitamin C-rich foods

One of the most well-known vitamins for immune support, Vitamin C can be easily obtained through consuming fresh fruits and vegetables though we tend to eat less fresh produce during the cold winter months when we reach for more starchy comfort foods. Keep up your Vitamin C intake through seasonal foods such as beets, carrots, brussel sprouts, kale, apples, pears, and kiwis (a surprise winter fruit in BC).

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s fatty acids have many essential functions in the body and are one of the most vital aspects of a balanced diet. In terms of immune health, Omega-3s are responsible for maintaining healthy tissue cells, including those found in your gastrointestinal tract. Remember: a healthy digestive tract is vital for a healthy immune system! Unfortunately, the majority of people are not meeting their daily requirements of Omega-3s. To make sure you are getting sufficient amounts of this extraordinary fatty acid, enjoy two or three servings of a combination of flax seed, hemp seed, chia seed, salmon, halibut or walnuts daily. You can also take a fish oil supplement if you find it hard to incorporate these foods every day.

Bone Broth

Bone broth has been around for ages but it has recently exploded in popularity and has easily been one of the most popular food trends for 2017. For those who are not familiar with bone broth, it is as simple as the name suggests: a broth that has been made from the bones of animals, usually chicken or beef.  It has been traditionally used as a remedy for colds and flus and more recently for its benefits to the digestive system. Bone broth, when prepared correctly, has a very high mineral, amino acid (the building blocks of protein & muscle) and collagen content all of which are essential to a healthy immune and digestive system. The key to getting the most nutritional benefits out of bone broth is to add an acidic substance like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and to cook the broth for 24 – 72 hours.

Immune Boosting Bone Broth


  • 2 marrow bones (roasting them beforehand will make them more flavourful)
  • 5 cups of water, or enough to cover the bones and vegetables
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 sticks of celery, leaves and tops, chopped
  • 2 medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 – 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • handful of parsley stalks, chopped
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3-4 whole allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. salt

Add all ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on low for 12 – 72 hours. If you are using chicken bones, the cook time is 6 – 48 hours.