Extreme Grocery-List Makeover: Immune System Edition

 It’s happening. The days are getting shorter, the mornings chillier, and the PSL is back. It isn’t officially autumn yet - that happens on my birthday, September 22 - but it’s close.

Since Damien and I already battled one nasty cold in the last month (note my lack of posting recently), I’ve been thinking about how to best keep us healthy as the colder seasons roll around.

Luckily, I have the immune system of an ox (oxes don't get sick, right?) and rarely get ill. Damien, though, battles nearly chronic colds. As a personal trainer and CrossFit coach, he's at a disadvantage; between interacting with clients, handling equipment, and working out himself, his immune system is constantly under stress. 

I'm of the old-school camp that medication comes second to a smart, healthy diet and lifestyle. So I’m going to try and help out our natural defence systems a little more by healthifying our kitchen. That means shopping for ingredients that are focussed on overall wellness, incorporating disease-fighting fruits and vegetables wherever possible, and integrating immune-boosting supplements with our normal diet.  

 

Health-Boosting Grocery List

Berries: Full of antioxidants and Vitamin C, which triggers the production of antibodies.

Oranges & Grapefruits: Again, high levels of Vitamin C. Keeping your Vitamin C high will also help your body absorb iron; plus, any excess will be urinated out.  

Sweet Potato: Sweet potatoes (and carrots) are high in beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A. That helps keep your immune system strong and protect you from infectious disease.

Carrots: Vitamin A also strengthens your mucosal lining and your skin, preventing bacteria and viruses from taking hold. 

Kale & Red Pepper: Vitamins A and C.

Spinach, Arugula, & Swiss Chard: Spinach, especially, provides all the fibre. Plus, leafy greens may boost your body’s white blood cell count, which helps prevent disease. They’re also full of zinc, which helps prevent inflammation and stops the growth of bacteria and viruses.

Shiitake Mushrooms: Shiitakes contain lentinan, which may have anticancer properties. All mushrooms contain potassium, B vitamins, and fibre.

Fennel: This liquorice-like veggie (wait, fruit?) can help clear congestion and soothe a cough. It’s best as a tea, but can be eaten raw or roasted, as well.

Onions & Garlic: Both have antiviral effects. Garlic contains allicin, which has antioxidant effects when it breaks down. It’s best eaten raw to prevent colds… But luckily, retains many beneficial qualities when cooked.

Lean Ground Beef: We don’t eat much beef, but we may start. It’s stocked with zinc, iron, and B-12. Iron keeps your red blood cells healthy by providing hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your cells. B-12 also helps with hemoglobin creation, neurological function, and fat and protein synthesis.

Salmon, Tuna, & Mackerel: Omega-3s, which can help reduce chronic inflammation by helping your immune system get back up to speed.

Beans & Lentils: Lots of zinc, and added proteins.

Flaxseed: Especially ground flaxseed, to help get enough omega-3s.

Almonds: Full of Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.

Almond & Peanut Butter: Both offer magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin E.  

Kefir: Probiotic that helps with gut health by replenishing strains of healthy bacteria, promoting stomach health but also lowering the risk of respiratory tract infection.

Oats: High in beta-glucan, which helps reduce cholesterol and boost white blood cell count.

 

This is by no means exclusive; there are tons are other foods that are also packed with superhero qualities. Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, coconut oil, the list goes on…. And you should include them all. I chose these because their benefits are conducive to long-term health, and they’re easily accessible and affordable.

Keep in mind, normal grocery trips will also still include things like almond milk, lots of eggs and egg whites, apples, cooking vegetables like eggplant/zucchini/broccoli, chicken, wild rice, whole grain pasta, herbs, etc.

 

Recipe Plan

  • Chili with lean ground beef, beans, dark leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potato

  • Fish coconut milk curry with red peppers, chopped kale, mushrooms, onions, and garlic

  • Salad with braised kale, raw shaved fennel, orange segments, almond slivers, and diluted apple cider vinegar dressing

  • Smoothies with apples, almond butter, flaxseed, cinnamon, kefir, and protein powder for sweetness

  • Overnight oats with berries, kefir, almond butter, chia seeds, and chopped nuts as a topping

  • Baked sweet potatoes filled with tuna, avocado-oil mayo, chopped veggies, onions, and garlic

  • Homemade nut-based granola bars, without added sugar.

 

Yes, I already make variations of these recipes… And we still get sick. However, the goal is to consciously combine immunity-boosting foods, and provide backup for our natural protective systems.

Plus, those combinations just sound delicious. I’m all about the smoothies. Yes.

Don’t worry, details will be on the blog as soon as this goes into effect (starting with the weekly grocery shop on Saturday). I’ll keep you updated!


In the meantime, are there any habits or tricks you guys use to stay healthy during flu season?