Winter Wellness – 5 immune enhancing foods to beat the cold and flu

by Cassandra Turp

FIVE immune enhancing foods to beat the cold and flu this winter, yummy and so easy to add to your daily diet.


Garlic has been used for centuries for its culinary and medicinal properties, it has a number of health promoting benefits and is a wonderful immune enhancer. Hippocrates known as the father of western medicine (circa. 460-370 BC) promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion and fatigue. Now we have scientific evidence to show that garlic does in fact have many immune enhancing, antibacterial and anti-viral actions. The natural compounds in garlic work by inducing white blood cell activity, supporting production of lymphocytes, assisting stimulation and release of cytokines and enhancing the activity of natural killer cells. In one study Garlic was almost 100 times more effective at treating bacterial infections than some antibiotics. Garlic has also been shown to act against viral infections including rhinovirus and parainfluenza virus.


  • Add into soups and stews towards the end of cooking to prevent loss of medicinal properties.
  • Eating garlic regularly during winter may help to prevent colds and flu.
  • Try adding fresh garlic cloves into a jar and filling with cold pressed olive oil, leave to infuse in the fridge. Use the garlic flavoured oil and garlic cloves as needed.


I love all kinds of mushrooms and use them regularly in cooking. Along with the more common button mushrooms used in Australia, I also love Reishi, Shiitake, Enoki, Maitake and Oyster mushrooms. These medicinal mushrooms contain long chain polysaccharides called beta-glucans, which have been found to be potent immune enhancers. Branched chain beta-glucans stimulate white blood cells of the immune system involved in breaking down bacteria, and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Mushrooms also show potent anti-tumour activity and may be of significant value in treating atopic conditions such as eczema and asthma.

  • Add to omelettes, stir-fries, soups, risotto, pies or almost any dish
  • I love Meadow & Marrow Bone Broth Concentrates- make a cup of broth and add in some
    sliced mushrooms- yum!
  • One of my favourite places to shop for mushrooms is  the Asian Grocer in Dromana you can learn all about them here
  • We also have an AMAZING mushroom extract here at Peninsula Herbal Dispensary, which
    can be taken as a tonic or added to dishes such as miso soup.

Green Tea

Green tea is abundant in antioxidants and nutrients that have powerful immune enhancing effects
on the body. There are many bioactive compounds found in green tea including polyphenols such as
epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is a potent antioxidant that protects our cells against free
radical damage and reduces inflammation. Compounds in green tea have been found to reduce the incidence of influenza infection amongst aged care workers. Green Tea catechins may affect enzymes found within the virus responsible for its binding and replication capability. In addition to reducing viral replication and proliferation, green tea also exhibits antibacterial activity reducing risk of infection both topically and internally and may be used to improve oral hygiene.
Green tea is also recognised for its mood, memory, concentration, fat burning and possible anti
cancer qualities.


  • Look for organically produced teas.
  • Matcha Tea is a powdered Green Tea and is delicious made with coconut or almond milk.
  • Use tea in place of stock in cooking eg: rice dishes and for poaching salmon, poached
    pears etc.
  • Add matcha powder to smoothies, dressings or in baking- matcha cookies are delicious!

Citrus Fruits

There’s a reason they’re in season in winter! Citrus of all kinds including lemons, oranges, limes,
tangerines and grapefruit contain loads of vitamin C, which is well known for its immune boosting
benefits. Vitamin C concentrations rapidly decline during infections such as the common cold, indicating the important role that vitamin C plays in resistance to infection. Vitamin C has been shown to enhance white blood cell activity including leukocyte, neutrophil and T-lymphocyte proliferation, improve antimicrobial and natural killer cell activity, reducing the severity of symptoms and the duration of the common cold.


  • Freshly squeezed juices are great, although be aware not to consume too much as they
    are high in fructose, you can also mix in with lots of veggies for a delicious nutrient dense
    juice or add to smoothies.
  • Make a warm delicious tea with local honey and lemon to soothe the sniffles.
  • Make dressings with citrus juice or squeeze over almost any dish you like.
  • Caution grapefruit may effect certain pharmaceutical medications so consult with a health professional if you are taking prescribed medications.


Berries are a rich source of phytochemicals called proanthocyanidins, which are also known as
flavonoids. These are responsible for giving the plants their colour and also possess powerful
antioxidant effects. Bright coloured fruit and vegetables contain these pigments and are abundant
in strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black currants, red and black grapes, elderberries, currents and bilberries.

Elderberries themselves have been found to inhibit viral binding to cells and reduce the severity and duration of viral infection such as influenza. Blackcurrant have also been shown to inhibit influenza virus in in vitro testing and blackberries protect against inflammation of the lung pleura.


  • Sprinkle fresh or frozen berries on top of oat porridge, chia puddings or bircher
    muesli. Great organic berries can be purchased frozen from Woolworths.
  • Elderberry syrup/ cordial made from fresh elderberries can be a nice addition to mineral
    water or added to a warm honey and lemon drink.

Hoping you stay warm and well this winter
Yours in health

Cassandra Turp
Naturopath and Nutritionist

This article is intended to be informational only and represents the opinion of the author. It is not intended to be used as medical advice and does not take the place of advice from a qualified health care practitioner in a clinical setting. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before embarking upon any of the treatments discussed.