[Updated 30 June 2021]
Taking care of your health is a top priority given the current pandemic (and it should always be!) and part of that is maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet to keep your body fighting fit. ? There are lots of simple ways you can boost your immunity but how about extending that to the food you eat?
Apart from eating a balanced diet, there are certain foods that are known to have health benefits. Whether that's strengthening the immune system, or contributing extra nutrients to ensure that you're getting the best meal out there. Keep reading for 9 amazing foods you should start working into your daily meals and snacks!
Note: While these foods provide general boosts to your immunity, they are not a substitute for medication or immunisation. If you are experiencing any symptoms of illness or nutrient deficiency, we recommend visiting your doctor for a medical check-up. ?
We'll start with something familiar to many Muslims - dates! ? Dates are a must-have during Ramadan but you can, of course, work them into your meals year-round. They have no cholesterol, very low fat, and are a good source of slow-release sugars so you'll feel fuller throughout the day. Dates are also a great source of potassium, vitamins including A1, B1, B2, B3, B5, and C, and dietary fibre!
Recipe ideas: Mix them into cereals, yogurts, or granola for breakfast, or blend them with other fruits such as bananas for a healthy smoothie. Harder dates can also be used in salads or eaten plain! You can also mix them into desserts such as these oat and honey slices for additional sweetness. ?
Honey is a popular ingredient in many traditional and home-made cures. Who here has had warm water mixed with honey and ginger or lemon for a sore throat? ?♀️ This natural sweetener is rich in minerals and vitamins, and its antioxidant properties make it an ideal immunity booster. It also has antimicrobial properties that can help kill certain bacteria, which is why it helps when you have an itch in your throat!
Recipe ideas: Honey can be used in both savoury and sweet meals! Use it as part of a marinade, or drizzle it over your cereals, yoghurts, or ice cream for a sweet treat. If you're preparing overnight oats or cereals honey is a great condiment to drizzle over your meal.
3. Olive oil (and olives)
Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats (which helps increase good cholesterol), anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, olive oil is a great alternative to canola or sunflower oil, or even butter. Make sure to get extra-virgin olive oil, which comes from the first press of the olives and has the highest concentration of antioxidants! Whole olives also have anti-inflammatory properties, and black olives are a good source of vitamins A and E, and dietary fibre.
Recipe ideas: Take up to 3 tablespoons of olive oil throughout the day, or substitute it for butter, margarine, or other oils. Mix whole olives into your salads for a Mediterranean touch! Many easy recipes such as one-tray chicken bake (#10 in this list) use olive oil so you don't have to make it too complicated. ? Make sure to check out even more halal recipes here for ideas!
4. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has become increasingly popular as a health food for its antibacterial properties. As it results from natural fermentation, it's rich in healthy bacteria and prebiotics that help boost gut health and digestion. ?
P.S. Though it has the word 'cider' in its name, there is generally no alcohol in apple cider vinegar as it has been naturally fermented. There are several halal-certified apple cider vinegar products in supermarkets - or you can check the labels for any mentions of alcohol if you aren't sure!
Recipe ideas: Start your day by mixing 1-2 spoons of apple cider vinegar with warm water.
5. Milk (of all kinds!)
We've grown up hearing the health benefit of cow's milk and it's still true today! ? Cow's milk is a great source of calcium, protein, and vitamins A, B12, and D that help to maintain the immune system and organs such as red blood cells. Now you can also find all sorts of milk ranging from goat's milk to plant-based milk such made from ingredients such as soy, oat, rice, or dates. Many plant-based milks often come fortified with extra nutrients and vitamins to make it extra-healthy - make sure you check the product's packaging to find out what you're getting!
Recipe ideas: Drink milk on its own, or mix it into drinks, desserts, and more! If you're drinking plant-based milk, you can mix it with other ingredients for added fortification.
6. Grains (oats, barley, etc.)
Rice and bread (wheat) aren't the only types of grains out there - everything from oats to barley has a range of minerals and vitamins that help keep you healthy. Oats and oatmeal are a good source of zinc, iron, and vitamin B1 - it even contains beta-glucan which can boost the blood cells in our immune system! Barley is also rich in fibre, iron, magnesium, and selenium. Magnesium and selenium help to enhance cell formation in the body, and iron helps with heart health.
P.S. Many grains contain gluten so if you have gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, some gluten-free options include oats, corn, and quinoa.
Recipe ideas: Eat a bowl of oatmeal topped with fruits for breakfast, or add barley into soups and stews for added richness. Look out for wholewheat or multi-grain options for bread or cereals so that you get a range of nutrients.
7. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits are a fantastic source of vitamin C - one of the most famous immunity boosters out there! While vitamin C is not a substitute for medication and does not fend off colds or flu on its own, working regular amounts into your diet can help support normal immune function. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties, and can also help strengthen organ health. It is also not made naturally by the body - so keeping up with your citrus fruits or vitamin supplements is crucial!
Recipe ideas: There are many types of citrus fruits out there including oranges, lemons, tangerines, grapefruit, and lime. Many other fruits and vegetables also contain amounts of vitamin C. You can eat these in a variety of ways such as marinades for meat, juices (keep the pulp for fibre!), or just eating them on their own.
Fish and fish oil are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA, which can help with inflammations and infections. Whether you're getting your fishy fix from fish oil supplements, cod liver oil, or fresh fish - they're all great ways to keep your heart and body healthy! Salmon, tuna, and mackeral are some of the fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, so you can still have a variety of fish in your meals. ?
Recipe ideas: The world is your oyster when it comes to fish! Whether boiled, steamed, baked, or grilled, add in some citrus and herbs to lessen the 'fishy' taste and up the yum factor. If you're feeling adventurous you can even try making sushi or sashimi of your own - but make sure to buy fresh raw fish that comes from a reliable source. ?
Watermelon is an amazing snack on a hot day, but did you know it's high in potassium and vitamins A and C too? It also has lots of amino acids and antioxidants to keep your body running smoothly, and it's even rich in lycopene which can help boost the immune system! Watermelon is also a great low-calorie snack to have by your side while you work. ?
Recipe ideas: Snack on it whole, mix it into a salad, or blend it up into a juice with other fruits for a yummy mid-day snack. You can also try taking your dessert game to the next level by making watermelon sorbet or gelato!
Keeping ourselves healthy is an important defence against illness, and what we put into our bodies is crucial to staying fit. Make sure to eat a balanced diet so that you'll get all the nutrients you need, and check out dozens of halal recipes here! ?