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Winter Wellness Guide: How to Optimise your Immune System & Stay Healthy this Winter!

Spread of immune boosting ingredients on a table including rhubarb, orange juice, almonds, oats and granola


As the winter weather sets in, it's more crucial than ever that we all prioritise our immune health! Our immune system serves as our body's defence mechanism, protecting us from harmful pathogens and doing its best to keep us up and about. By understanding the importance of a robust immune system and implementing some simple (and even fun!) strategies, we can fortify our bodies against winter’s seasonal challenges, giving us the best chance of dealing with all those nasty bugs - and if (or should I say when!) we do catch one, we have the best chance to deal with it as quickly as possible. 

In this article, we'll explore the immune system in more detail, its role in helping us stay healthy, the essential things we can do to help it thrive, the best foods to enhance its function, and some actionable tips for maintaining optimal immune health.

Ok, let’s start with a definition - what is the Immune System?

According to the Victorian Government Department of Health, the immune system is a complex network of organs, cells and proteins that defends the body against infection, whilst protecting the body’s own cells. Put simply, the immune system is like your body's defence system or personal army. Its job is to protect you from harmful germs, viruses, and other things that can make you sick. Just like an army has soldiers, the immune system has different parts that work together to keep you healthy.

When germs try to invade your body, the immune system recognises them as "foreign" and launches an attack. It has special cells called white blood cells that act like soldiers. These cells go after the germs and try to destroy them. Plus, the immune system has a memory. Once it fights off a germ, it remembers it, so if that same germ tries to attack again, the immune system knows how to fight it faster and better. A robust immune system is essential for preventing infections, reducing the severity of illnesses, and promoting overall well-being.

Right! So it definitely sounds like I want to keep it strong! What’s the best way to do this?

There are many things we can do to help strengthen our immune system, including eating well, getting enough exercise, adequate sleep & reducing stress. But given most of the body’s immune cells are found in the lining of the intestine, and microbes in the gut, thenumber one factor when it comes to keeping our immune system strong is making sure we eat well! 

Following a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet loaded in essential nutrients provides the building blocks for immune cells to function effectively. Ensuring an adequate intake of protein, vitamins (A, C, D, E), minerals (zinc, selenium), omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants is critical to immune health. 

A recent mini-review funded by Monash University looking at the Current Perspective of Plant-Based Diets on Communicable Diseases Caused by Viruses found that people who followed a plant-based diet or consumed an increased level of fruits and vegetables had a positive impact when it came to the severity of various viruses, including SARS-COV-2, with one of the studies included in the reviewdemonstrating a reduced COVID-19 incidence and lower mortality rates amongst people who consumer a higher intake of vegetables and fruits.

Ok, so what are the best foods to add to my plate?

Adding nutrient-dense foods to your diet are the best options for a strong immune system. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. They provide the building blocks necessary for optimal immune function, including strengthening immune cells, supporting antibody production, and enhancing immune system balance. By prioritising nutrient-dense foods, you give your immune system the tools it needs to efficiently combat pathogens, reducing the risk of infections and promoting overall health. Here are some great options to add to your plates:

  • Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are renowned for their high vitamin C content. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that supports the production and function of white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting off infections. These fruits also contain flavonoids and antioxidants that contribute to overall immune health. A simple tip is to add some freshly squeezed OJ to your breakfast routine. 
  • Berries: Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cranberries are packed with antioxidants that help neutralise harmful free radicals in the body. They are rich in vitamin C, which aids in the production of collagen and strengthens the immune system. Berries also provide fibre, which supports a healthy gut microbiome and immune function. Adding some blueberries to a warm bowl of oats like Stone Age Staples Coco-Berry Porridge is a great way to start your day!
  • Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fibre. As an example, Spinach is a nutrient powerhouse, providing an array of essential vitamins and minerals. It is a great source of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as folate and iron. Vitamin A supports the health of skin and mucous membranes, while vitamin E and iron play crucial roles in immune function and red blood cell production, respectively. Adding a handful to a smoothie is an excellent way to up your leafy green consumption!
  • Garlic: Garlic is a potent immune-boosting food with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It contains compounds like allicin, which can stimulate the immune system and enhance the activity of white blood cells. Incorporating garlic into your diet may help combat infections and support overall immune function. There are so many recipes that include garlic and in my view you can (almost!) never go wrong by doubling the recommended garlic volume! 
  • Ginger: has long been used for its medicinal properties, including its immune-boosting effects. It possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can support immune health. Ginger can be consumed fresh, as a tea, or added to various dishes to enhance flavour and provide immune benefits. Swapping out your mid-morning coffee for a ginger tea is a great way to add some more ginger to your day.  
  • Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are loaded with nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, protein, and antioxidants. They provide a range of vitamins and minerals that support immune health. Sprinkling additional chia seeds on top of porridge, avocado on toast or over the top of a salad tastes great! 
  • Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are another great source of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. They also contain lignans, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Did you know that the Gluten Free Original Loaf contains60 grams of flaxseed per loaf! 
  • Yoghurt: Probiotic-rich foods like yoghurt contain beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a crucial role in supporting immune function. Adding a healthy dollop of coconut yoghurt plus some fresh berries to a bowl of Coco-Berry Granola is an excellent way to up your yoghurt intake. 
  • Almonds: Almonds are packed with vitamin E, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system. They also provide healthy fats, fibre, and protein. A handful of almonds is a great mid-morning snack to add to your routine!  
  • Oats: Oats are a good source of beta-glucans, a type of fibre known for its immune-stimulating properties. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A nice warm bowl of oats is the perfect mid-afternoon pick me up on a cold winter day. Why not add some berries, yoghurt and a sprinkle of chia & flaxseeds!
  • Quinoa: Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it provides all essential amino acids. It also contains fibre, vitamins, and minerals, including iron and zinc, which support immune function. You can add quinoa to salads or use it as a substitute for oats in porridge. Check out Stone Age Staples Gluten Free Coco-Berry Porridge if you want a winter warmer that is loaded with quinoa! 

Awesome, I will be adding some more of those foods to my diet - any other advice on how I can help my immune system?

Absolutely, while adding some more of these immune-boosting foods to your plate will help, there are a number of other import things you can do to help optimise your immune system, these include:

  1. Regular Exercise: Engaging in moderate physical activity can enhance immune function by improving circulation, reducing stress, and supporting the body's natural defence mechanisms.
  2. Sufficient Sleep: Prioritising quality sleep is crucial for immune health. During sleep, the body repairs and rejuvenates itself, optimising immune cell activity. Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
  3. Stress Management: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system over time. Incorporate stress-reducing practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.
  4. Hydration: Drinking an adequate amount of water supports the immune system by promoting optimal cellular function and maintaining overall health.
  5. Balanced microbiome: The gut microbiome, consisting of trillions of microorganisms in the digestive tract, plays a crucial role in immune function. A balanced and diverse gut microbiome promotes the development and regulation of white blood cells and overall immune health.
  6. Practise good hygiene: we all remember those Covid hand washing videos! Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  7. Limit alcohol and sugary foods: Excessive consumption of alcohol and sugary foods can suppress immune function. Enjoy them in moderation or seek healthier alternatives.
  8. Consider supplements: If you struggle to obtain all the necessary nutrients from your diet, consult with a healthcare professional about suitable supplements, such as vitamin D, Vitamin C chews, or omega-3 fatty acids.

Great advice. Do you have some practical day-to-day things that I can implement to help?

For sure, while optimising your diet, sleep, stress and so forth is critical, there are some things you can do a little more of on a day-to-day basis that will help with all of the above factors, including:

Cook and create immune-boosting recipes: 

This is one I can personally recommend from experience, we absolutely love cooking with our little girl Sisi and Sunday Pizza nights are a tradition in our household. Involve your family in preparing nutritious meals and snacks that support immune health. Get creative in the kitchen by trying out new recipes that incorporate immune-boosting ingredients like fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. If you have kids, encourage them to participate in age-appropriate tasks, such as mixing, chopping (under supervision), and decorating dishes. 

Here are a couple of our favourite immune boosting recipes to try:

  1. Crispy Tofu with Sweet & Sticky Noodles: loaded with garlic, ginger, tofu and veggies, this nutrient-dense dinner is loaded with immune boosting ingredients and is a perfect winter-warmer.
  2. PB Granola Strawberry Rhubarb Slice: a favourite in our household, this dish is loaded with all sorts of immune-boosting ingredients including berries, nuts, and even veggies (rhubarb is actually a vegetable!), it's packed with vitamin C and all sorts of immune helping antioxidants, this is another winter option we have on rotation. Oh, and as an added bonus, it tastes ridiculously good.

Dance it out:

Sounds a bit silly, but this works! Put on some of your favourite music and have a bit of a solo (or even better in a group) dance session! Dancing is not only a fun way to move your body, but it also helps improve circulation and stimulate the lymphatic system, which supports immune function. Often when I am writing, I will put some of my favourite music on the get in the zone and will often have a bit of a boogie as I am typing away! Plus, it just feels nice. 

Explore nature: 

As a trail runner, this is another favourite! Spending time in nature has multiple benefits for overall well-being, including immune health. Take a hike, go for a run, throw on a warm jacket and have a picnic in the park, or simply go for a walk in the woods. Being in nature helps reduce stress, improves mood, and exposes you to fresh air and vitamin D from sunlight, which supports immune function.

Laugh and enjoy comedy: 

Laughter truly is the best medicine! Watch a funny movie or series on Netflix, attend a comedy show, or engage in playful activities that make you laugh. Laughter reduces stress hormones, boosts mood, and improves immune function. This is something I wish I did a bit more of! One of my favourite things to watch are the US office bloopers! Guaranteed to make me laugh every time! 

Practice mindfulness and meditation: 

I’m personally a huge believer in the power of mindfulness and meditation. Engaging in mindfulness activities or meditation will reduce stress and support immune health. There are various apps and online resources available that offer guided meditations and mindfulness exercises suitable for both adults and children. Take a few moments each day to focus on your breath, observe your surroundings, or practice gratitude. Even better if you can combine this with a nature exploration! I use the Calm app for their guided meditations and amazing sleep stories.  


With winter now upon us, safeguarding your immune system becomes even more important for maintaining good health. By understanding the importance of the immune system, providing it with essential components, incorporating immune-boosting foods into your diet, and following key tips for immune health, you can fortify your body's natural defence mechanisms to ensure you are at your best over these cold winter months. Prioritise self-care, adopt a nutrient-rich diet, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to help your immune system thrive and keep you well during the colder months ahead, you won't regret it we promise! 

If you need some more inspo, check out the Stone Age Staples product range & recipes for more immune-boosting inspo!

Overhead shot of a frying pan with sweet and sticky tofu noodles

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