Immunity Boosting Smoothie

By Ann Fulton

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Looking for some immunity boosting magic?  If you’ve skimmed a newspaper or tuned into the morning news (anyone else a Hoda fan?) even once or twice over the past few weeks, you likely know this is the worst flu season in years.  As if that’s not enough, there’s a severe upper respiratory infection and a nasty stomach virus making the rounds.  This is not the “happy” part of the New Year…

The respiratory infection hit our family, with my younger son, Christian, getting it the worst.  (Knock on wood, I haven’t gotten it although I’ve been in major defensive mode with my arsenal of preventive measures…I’ll mention them later for those who want to know because I really think they’ve been working.)

Christian loves smoothies, and when he’s sick they seem to taste especially good to him.  In order to hydrate and fend off the germs simultaneously, I fill the sick-day smoothies with immune boosting Vitamin C and a few other choice ingredients.

Immunity boosting citrus fruits are known to be high in Vitamin C, but strawberries, pineapple, and mango are loaded with it, too, and they taste delicious in a smoothie. The power of Vitamin C, by the way, lies in its ability to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections.

When sick, many people also think of ginger. This spice may help decrease inflammation, which may be why it can make a sore throat feel a little better.  It’s also thought to decrease nausea.  I like to add a small amount of fresh ginger to this smoothie, but I consider it optional as it’s still worth making if you don’t have any on hand or simply don’t care for the taste.

Like our chosen fruits, spinach is rich in immunity boosting vitamin C., and it’s also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene. Studies show that these may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune system.  This is a worthy smoothie add-in, but because it will muddy the smoothie’s color and kids, especially, can be turned off by an unappealing color, I consider it an option.  Even if we skip this nutritional powerhouse, the benefits are still many.

Yogurts that have “live and active cultures” printed on the label, whether Greek or regular, are also believed to stimulate the immune system, increase gut health, and help fight diseases. To accommodate those who are dairy-free, the milk and yogurt in this smoothie are interchangeable.  Also, when recovering from a stomach bug, many people like to avoid dairy of all kinds for several days because it can be hard to digest.  Feel free to choose accordingly.

Vitamin E is known to be instrumental in supporting a healthy immune system, and almonds are an excellent source.  They also add protein, healthy fats, and a hint of creaminess and nutty flavor.  Those who are allergic can skip it or choose a seed-based butter.

Finally, for those who like a little extra sweetness, I’ve talked before about the healing properties of honey.  Recent studies have suggested that it may be at least as effective as most over-the-counter medicines — see this post for details and another helpful home remedy.

For Christian’s sake, he claims this smoothie makes him feel better when he’s under the weather.  Even if it’s a placebo effect, I’ll take it.

I mentioned the preventative measures I’ve employed in an effort to fend off the sea of germs in our home and beyond.  (I’m sure many of you can relate…and I am acutely aware that I may be jinxing myself by simply mentioning that I’ve avoided getting sick so far!)  So here’s the list:

  • Ginger tea —  After dinner, I often simmer (covered) 4-5 quarter-size slices of ginger and half a cinnamon stick in two cups of water for about 15 minutes and then add about a teaspoon of honey.  It has healing properties and is soothing on the stomach — and it’s pretty tasty, too.
  • Zicam —  For the first time ever, after hearing my parents (who hardly ever pop a pill) swear by its effectiveness, I took this homeopathic remedy, which has been clinically proven to shorten colds when taken at the first sign.  Three  or four times over the last month, when I felt the telltale scratchy throat, I took a Zicam (you’re actually supposed to suck on the tablet rather than chew it) and the cold never materialized.  Dumb luck maybe, but I’m a new fan.
  • Kombucha —  I used to drink a glass of wine each night with dinner, and although I still enjoy an occasional glass, most nights I drink a glass of kombucha instead.  Kombucha is fermented tea that’s naturally effervescent and loaded with probiotics, amino acids, polyphenols, and active enzymes.  For those who haven’t tried, taste varies widely from brand to brand. We really enjoy GT’s Kombucha.  It’s like a mix of seltzer and juice with a little zing and the brand is widely available.  Cosmic Cranberry is my favorite flavor; my son John swears by Gingerberry and Strawberry Serenity.  Most nights I drink half a 16-ounce bottle and save the rest for the next night.  When my stomach feels off, I’ll sip on a whole bottle throughout the day.  At those times, I consider it the modern, gut-healthy version of the ginger ale my mom used to give me when I was sick.
  • Olive Leaf Complex Throat Spray —  Olive leaf has been used as a traditional medicinal plant throughout the world for centuries (although I just learned about it last year) and has been clinically studied for its antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties in addition to its potential to support a healthy immune system. For these reasons it’s becoming increasingly popular during cold and flu season.  I use this peppermint-flavored option and have several friends and family members who are sold on it as well.

When you find yourself down and out, here are two other options that may provide natural relief:

Homemade Cold Remedy  —  Four basic pantry items are all you need for this inexpensive, doctor-approved option to over the counter cold medicines.

Honey Lollipops  — These all-natural pops requires just two ingredients and have soothed many a sore throat.

Immunity Boosting Smoothie
Yield: 1 (20-ounce) or 2 (10-ounce) smoothies
Bursting with healing Vitamin C, this hydrating smoothie will serve you well all year round.
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice* (I like coconut or almond; may substitute plain or vanilla yogurt)
  • 1/2 lightly rounded cups EACH frozen strawberries, mango, and pineapple**
  • 1 teaspoon freshly minced ginger (or more to taste)
  • Optional: 1-2 teaspoons raw honey; a handful or two of fresh baby spinach; 1-2 tablespoons almond butter

Add the ingredients to a blender and blend on high speed until completely smooth, scraping down the blender as needed.

Add a drizzle of honey or extra ginger to taste, pour into glasses, and enjoy.


*This smoothie is not overly tart or zingy, but for a milder flavor yet, you may adjust the ratio of liquids to 3/4 cups each orange juice and milk of choice.

**I use 2.5 to 3 ounces of each fruit for a consistency that is thin enough to drink through a straw.  For a thicker smoothie, you may scale back the liquid and/or add more frozen fruit to taste and/or a frozen banana.  Optionally, fresh fruit may be used when available.

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