Want to stay looking and feeling your best throughout winter? Put these foods on your plate AND on your skin!

Along with the cooler temperatures, crunchy Autumn leaves and the beautiful soft light we enjoy in the cooler months, we may find that our immunity wanes and we become vulnerable to colds and flu. Building immune resources via a healthy diet is important all year round, but never more so than now, when these bugs and viruses come alive and indeed, often thrive.

I spoke to celebrity nutritionist, author and host of Channel 10s Good Chef, Bad Chef, Zoe Bingley-Pullen, for her go-to vegan immune-building foods, and found that many give an added beauty boost, too!

1. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds
“These contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are beneficial omega-3 fats,” says Zoe.

“Omega-3 fats are believed to positively modulate the immune response and help reduce the inflammatory symptoms of histamine release. Eat these every day but go easy on foods containing omega-6 fats, such as sunflower oil, as these will compete with your Omega-3s in the conversion process. Sprinkle on salads, add to muesli, porridge, dips and smoothies.”

Beauty Boost: Aside from immune strengthening, foods rich in Omega 3s are hydrating for the skin, helping to keep it glowing, smooth and firm! They can also help keep hair strong, shiny and less prone to breakage.

Adding oils from chia, hemp or flaxseed to your beauty routine can helps improve skin quality too. Try Antipodes Chia and Kiwi Seed Superfood Light Oil, $39.

2. Sweet Potato
“Sweet potato is all its forms is rich in both vitamin A and C,” reveals Zoe, “both of which are known to support the body’s immune system. Serve it in curries, stews or add to salads.

Beauty Boost: the vitamin A and C content in sweet potatoes means that they are fantastic antioxidants – molecules that ward off free radicals introduced by pollution, cigarette smoke and other forms of external or internal stress. This makes them natural anti-ageing foods!

For a topical vitamin A + C boost, try 100 % Pure Multi-Vitamin + Antioxidants Ultra Riche PM Treatment, $69.95.

3. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds pack a huge immunity-boosting punch, thanks to mega amounts of zinc. “Zinc deficiency is linked to weakened immunity,” says Zoe,” so always have some pumpkin seeds on hand to snack on, or sprinkle them in your salad, or even add to dips!”

Beauty Boost: Zinc is well reputed to help support healing in the skin, so will be great if you’re suffering blemishes or acne or have a laceration that’s taking a while to heal. It’s also super-calming and rejuvenating.

If your skin is suffering somewhat, consider swapping your regular soap for a zinc-based formula, like The ANSC Calamine Zinc Solid Soap, $9.95. It can be used on the face and body, and is vegan and palm-oil and cruelty-free.

4. Apples and and Pears
“These delicious fruits are a great source of soluble fibre, which has an anti-inflammatory effect in the gut and may directly support the immune system,” reveals Zoe.

“Apples are also rich in the antioxidant quercetin, which helps to break down mucus – handy to know in the event you do get sick! Snack on apples and pears, grate into muesli or add to baked goods.”

Beauty Boost: High fibre foods such as these are essential for glowing, clear skin. They act as an intestinal broom, sweeping away toxins from the gut and lightening the load on the lymphatic system.

Pears and apples are also rich in vitamins C and K, as well as copper, all of which contribute to collagen production and healthy, strong skin that is better able to fight the external aggressors that lead to poor skin health.

Topically, you can’t beat pure apple cider vinegar to heal a host of skin issues (just be sure to buy one with ‘the mother’ the cloudy growth that sits in the bottom of the bottle which gives it all its goodness). Rich in proteins and enzymes, it can soothe irritation cleanse away debris, help refine pores and balance sebum. You can even use it as a hair rinse to add mega-shine after shampooing! Try Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, $8.95.

5. Garlic, onion and leeks
“These are a fantastic source of prebiotics, which help to feed good bacteria,” says Zoe. “Looking after gut health can benefit immunity considering that approximately 80 per cent of our immune system is housed in the gut! Use in the base of sauces, add to stir-fry’s, curries and bean casseroles.

Beauty Boost: Great gut health is directly linked to beautiful glowing skin, strong nails and shiny hair (insert link to Lee Holmes article here). You can also support it with some wonderful vegan, natural supplements, such as That Hippie Co. Collagen Booster and Prebiotics, $39.90.

6. Fermented foods
We’re talking sauerkrauts, tempeh and Kombucha. “Fermented foods are often referred to as probiotic rich foods because they are known to contain live microorganisms (bacteria),” explains Zoe. “The balance of bacteria in our gut can influence our immune system. Sip on kombucha, add sauerkraut to salads or make a curry with tempeh.”

Beauty Boost: Tempeh is fortified with B group vitamins, which all folk need to ensure they ingest daily. It’s trickier for vegans, as B vitamins are most readily available in meat and eggs, so we need to find other sources, like tempeh or tofu. Essential for healthy hair, skin and nails, B Group vitamins can help to improve the condition of the skin, helping to treat rosacea, acne, eczema, dermatitis, hyper pigmentation, sun-damaged, aging and dry skin.

A wonderful topical application is Mukti Vitamin Booster Vital B Elixir, $104.95.

7. Turmeric
Turmeric is the super-spice of our modern age.

“It contains the active compound curcumin, which exerts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, both of which may help to support a healthy immune response,” says Zoe. “Curcumin is not easily absorbed, so it is important to consume it alongside a source of healthy fats and a pinch of black pepper to aid absorption. Use in sauces, salad dressings, smoothies, curries or slow cooked dishes.”

Beauty Boost: Turmeric is an amazing anti-inflammatory for skin conditions and is frequently used in skin care formulas targeting rosacea and other sensitive issues, or even simply anti-ageing formulas, such as Andalou Naturals Enlighten Serum, $29.99.

8. Shiitake Mushrooms
Aside from being incredibly yummy, shiitake mushrooms have been traditionally used for their immune stimulating properties.

“Research has found daily consumption of shiitake mushrooms may help to support immune function and reduce inflammation,” says Zoe. “Add them to broths or soups alongside garlic and ginger.”

Beauty Boost: Rich in Vitamin B, Shiitake mushrooms are great for the hair, skin and nails, but they are also loaded with kojic acid, which is thought to promote even skin tone and minimise pigmentation.

As a skin care treat, you’ll find it in 100% Pure Fermented Rice Water Cleanser, $46.90.

About the Author


After 30 years of working in Australian media, Shonagh is one of Australia’s busiest and most in-demand beauty, health, travel and lifestyle writers.

As a health and lifestyle journalist and consultant, Shonagh has worked closely with international wellness experts and icons, including Dr. Sandra Cabot, Therese Kerr and Miranda Kerr.

In other aspects of her work, she has travelled the world reviewing wellness retreats and luxe holiday destinations, and she has interviewed and written feature articles on some of the world’s best love celebrities, including Sting, Elle McPherson, Pamela Anderson, Simon Baker, Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani, Tina Arena, Heather Graham and many more.

She currently lives in the NSW Southern Highlands with her four dogs (three Siberian Huskies and one Maltese Cross), where she grows her own veggies and advocates ending Factory Farming and animal cruelty.

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