Foods that boost your immune system: 4 nutritionists share what they eat during the cold season

Foods that boost your immune system: 4 nutritionists share what they eat during the cold season

As we head into another flu season amid the continued threat of Covid variants, the question on everyone’s mind is, “What can I do to boost my immune system?”

One of the best places to start is with your diet. Research shows that our gut microbiome – or the trillions of microorganisms that live in the intestinal tract – is directly linked to immune health.

Here are four healthy, nutritionist-approved recipes to boost your immune system this winter:

1. Contemporary Pumpkin Soup

Colorful and nutritious joumou soup is also known as Haitian New Year soup.

Photo: Wini Lao Photography

There is truth behind the saying: “Eat the rainbow”. Recent studies have shown that phytonutrients, which are minimally processed — and often colored — plant foods can support healthy balance and immune function.

Maya Feller, registered dietitian and author of the forthcoming book “Eating From Our Roots,” is a fan of joumou soup. Originating in Haitian cuisine, this dish is often made with squash, beef and assorted vegetables.

“Not only is it representative of my culture and heritage, but it’s also high in phytonutrients and fiber,” says Feller, whose approach to nutrition is to make food more inclusive and reflect the diverse world. in which we live.


For the soup:

  • 1 pound boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup Epi seasoning
  • 3/4 cup lime juice
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 winter squash, peeled and cut into 3-inch cubes
  • 5 medium potatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 5 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 habanero pepper

For the dumplings:

  • 1 1/2 cup einkorn flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of flaked salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • Ripe avocado, for garnish


  1. Marinate the beef in the seasoning and lime juice overnight.
  2. Combine onions, garlic, celery, green onion, parsley and shallots in a large saucepan. Sauté in olive oil for five to seven minutes over medium heat or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add the tomatoes, broth, squash, potato, carrots, habanero and marinated meat to the pot. Cover and cook for 60 to 90 minutes over medium-low heat.
  4. Meanwhile, combine meatball ingredients in medium bowl and mix. Add two tablespoons of water at a time, as needed.
  5. Take a golf ball sized portion of dough and roll it between your hands until it becomes elongated.
  6. Drop the balls of dough into the soup one by one. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. To serve, place a generous portion in a bowl and garnish with a little avocado.

2. Stewed Vietnamese Pho

Chef Tessa Nguyen’s pho recipe contains fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables and high-quality beef protein, all of which are great for boosting immunity.

Photo: Tessa Nguyen

Nutritionist and chef Tessa Nguyen’s dishes are inspired by ingredients that “have been staples around the table in many cultures and for many centuries”, such as star anise, cloves, pepper from Sichuan and ginger.

Her go-to dish for immune support is a batch of slow-cooked pho. “It’s packed with nourishing ingredients that meet the body’s needs at any time of the year, but especially during the colder months.”

Nguyen’s recipe is loaded with immune health-boosting ingredients like fresh herbs, vegetables, and meat protein.


For the broth:

  • 2 pounds of beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (substitute with soy sauce if you have a fish allergy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • Enough water to fill your slow cooker after adding the above ingredients

For the noodles and toppings:

  • 1 cup rice noodles
  • Pulled beef in pho broth
  • Garnishes: chopped cilantro, Thai basil leaves, chopped green onions, sliced ​​white onions, bean sprouts, sliced ​​jalapeños, lime wedges, sriracha, hoisin sauce


  1. In a slow cooker, combine all the broth ingredients and set over low heat. Nguyen recommends cooking for 24 hours, but says it still tastes good even after just eight hours.
  2. Add the cooked rice noodles to a bowl and pour the broth over them.
  3. Add toppings.

3. Flavored cauliflower, turmeric and ginger soup

Anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, turmeric, and chickpeas are great immune boosters.

Photo: Hazel Wallace

Hazel Wallace, nutritionist and founder of The Food Medic, recommends getting a balance of nutrients from anti-inflammatory foods like chickpeas and lentils, nuts and seeds, olive oil, fish, herbs and spices.

Her cauliflower soup recipe contains turmeric and ginger, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. “It’s also incredibly warming and nourishing for fall, or whenever you’re feeling down,” she says.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large (or 2 small cauliflower heads), cut into florets
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or diced
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 900 milliliters of vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 thick slice of day-old bread
  • 3 teaspoons coconut cream (or yogurt), to garnish
  • Chili flakes, for garnish
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 356 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the cauliflower florets on a large platter. Drizzle with a tablespoon of oil and roast in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and add the white onions. Cook for five minutes until translucent.
  3. Transfer the onions to a blender, along with the turmeric, ginger, garlic, vegetable broth, soy sauce and a pinch of salt. Add the roasted cauliflower and mix until smooth.
  4. Heat the soup over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the bread into large pieces.
  6. Mix the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil with a tablespoon of soy sauce in a large bowl. Add the bread pieces. Place them on a tray and bake for eight minutes to toast them.
  7. Serve the soup with a drizzle of coconut cream and garnish with large croutons, fresh cilantro and chili flakes.

4. A shiny and vibrant defense smoothie

Simone Wilson’s Defense Smoothie recipe features bee pollen rich in B vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants.

Photo: Simone Wilson

We all need a break from hot food, even in the colder months.

Nutritionist Simone Wilson’s go-to is a refreshing smoothie blend made with banana, mango, hemp seeds, bee pollen, kale, orange juice, yogurt and kale .

“This simple recipe is packed with antioxidants, including vitamins C and A, to help fight free radical damage and support the immune system,” she says.


  • Half a ripe banana, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup mango chunks, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Greek (or cashew yogurt)
  • 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds
  • 1 teaspoon bee pollen
  • 1 handful of spinach (or kale)
  • 4 ice cubes (omit this if using all frozen fruit)


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Add more liquid if the texture is too thick, or more ice cream if it is too thin.
  2. Serve immediately.

Alexandra HayesRobinson a lifestyle writer and Editorial Director at The female quotient. Previously, she was Director of Content at Thrive globally.

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