With cold and flu season in full swing – and COVID-19 still out there circulating – we’re all thinking about the best ways to stay healthy and strong. And while vaccination is the number-one line of defence against COVID and flu viruses, supporting the body’s overall immune health is important, too; especially for seniors, who can be more vulnerable to illness and side effects than the general population.
Balanced nutrition is an important piece of this puzzle. We’ve covered 10 foods that boost seniors’ immunity, but there are so many more nutritional super-foods out there that seniors can consume to support a robust immune system. Try these five in combination with plenty of rest, fluids and exercise – and your body will be your best ally in the fight against seasonal illness.
1. Citrus Fruits
At some point, we’ve all heard a friend or family member advise, “load up on Vitamin C!” when we’re battling a seasonal cold. Well, it’s true: and it’s best to go straight to the source. Oranges, grapefruit, pomelos, lemons, and limes are absolutely loaded with this water-soluble vitamin, also known as ascorbic acid, which promotes the production of white blood cells and protects against free radical damage.
Whether you eat your citrus fruits alone, or add them to your favourite dressing, garnish, beverage, or smoothie, you’re golden! For adults age 50 and older, the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C is around 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. So pop that bag of mandarins right into your cart on your next trip to the grocery store.
Scientists are discovering new health benefits of turmeric all the time. This golden-hued spice, derived from the root the Curcuma longa plant, is a common ingredient in curry powder. It has long been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat all kinds of health conditions, from colds to indigestion. As it turns out, turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Plus, recent research suggests it boosts immunity by helping to activate the body’s T-cells, along with other illness-fighting antibodies.
Our suggested serving? Combine turmeric with ginger, another proven immune-system enhancer, in a spicy-delicious tea. Or, it makes a wonderful and vibrant addition to all kinds of seafood and curry dishes. It’s also used as a yellow dye, so watch out for staining!
This traditional Korean side dish may seem unassuming, but it’s an immunity-boosting dynamo. Typically, kimchi is made with cabbage, or other crunchy vegetables such as radishes, carrots or cucumber – brined and flavoured with garlic, ginger, chili flakes, and other zippy seasonings; then fermented at room temperature for a couple of days to bring on its signature tangy taste. But here’s the health secret: this process also results in a proliferation of healthy bacteria, or probiotics.
Whether you make your own kimchi or go with store-bought, these beneficial bacterial cultures are present, and they have been proven to support a balanced gut microbiome and a healthy digestive system – which translates to a fortified immune system. Other fermented foods, such as yogurt, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, kefir and tempeh contain similar healthy bacterial cultures, and have been proven to deliver a similar effect. So, we all need a few fermented snacks in our diet.
They were Plato’s favourite food for a reason! If you love olives, there is nothing better than stopping by a deli and packing home a little container of these Mediterranean delights for snacking, salads, tapenades, pastas and more. But olives are fantastic immune boosters too. They’re especially high in Vitamins A and E, as well as antioxidant polyphenol compounds.
Olives and olive oil – especially extra-virgin – are also rich in Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and blood pressure, supporting overall immune health.
Most types of natural, additive-free olives are healthy and immune-boosting, but the green and Kalamata varieties are slightly higher in nutrients than their black counterparts. Aim for low-salt and unsalted options, when possible, to reap the maximum benefits. Olive oil is a great option for people who aren’t big fans of the olive taste: you can get your healthy olive fix in a dressing or dip, instead.
You may know about the health-enhancing benefits of fish oil and seafood in general, but did you realize oysters are an illness-fighting powerhouse? As one of the highest sources of zinc in the ocean, they’re uniquely capable of helping the body stave off viruses and bacterial infections. They’re also an abundant natural source of selenium, iron, copper, Vitamin B12, and Omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to lean protein and amino acids.
Living so close to the Pacific Ocean, B.C. seniors are privileged to enjoy access to some of the freshest and most delicious oysters in the world, year-round. You can slurp them raw, or try them grilled, fried or even roasted. Happy shucking, and stay healthy!
Learn more about PARC’s food philosophy and how our chefs work so hard to create inventive, fresh, nutritious, and eye-catching meals.