As we approach the fall and winter seasons of colds and flu, I start to think about how to boost my family’s immune system in natural ways, so that we will be prepared to fight off bugs and germs and stay as healthy as we can.

With less sunshine and more time spent cooped up indoors comes a higher probability of illness, but there are ways to fend off the flu and cut down the colds. Real food and food supplements are the best place to start.

Homemade Chicken Broth (Stock)

One of the best ways to both prevent and treat colds and flu is with homemade chicken stock.  Why would anyone make their own stock when it’s so easy to buy at the store?  Well, there are a lot of benefits, and it’s really very easy!

Homemade stock contains tons of nutrients that you just don’t get in a box or a can (and many brands contain hidden MSG).  The key is using bones.  Yep, bones!  Bones are full of minerals that will leach into the liquid as it simmers, and the result will be a rich, healing bone broth.  There’s a reason our grandmothers always said chicken soup will cure anything!

The minerals and nutrients in homemade chicken stock are in a form that your body can easily absorb and use.  Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, real gelatin, and fancy-schmancy things like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine – for which people pay top dollar in supplement form – are all abundant in homemade chicken stock.

Photo by brian kelly

Here’s a simple recipe for homemade chicken stock that will make about 3-4 quarts, depending how long you let it simmer.  You can use one quart that day, and freeze the rest for later.  I freeze mine in 1-quart mason jars.

The recipe uses a whole chicken, so you also end up with delicious meat that you can use for enchiladas (a personal fave), tortilla soup, chicken salad – whatever.  Make sure you use the best quality chicken you can get – local pastured chicken is best. I use the recipe found in Nourishing Traditions



• 1 chicken (or 2-3 pounds of bony parts)
• 4 quarts cold water
• 2 TB apple cider vinegar
• 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
• 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
• 3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
• 1 bunch parsley

Basically, you throw it all into a big pot, except for the parsley.  Let it sit there for about 30 minutes and then bring it to a boil.  If anything rises to the top, skim it off.  Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.  The longer you simmer it, the more flavorful and nutrient-rich it will be.  About 10 minutes before you’re finished simmering, add the parsley.

When finished, let it cool slightly and then you can take out the meat and use it, freeze it, or whatever.  Strain the broth through a mesh strainer into containers that will seal and remain airtight.  If you plan on freezing it, remember to leave about an inch of room at the top.  You can stick it into the fridge once it’s at room temp, and let the fat congeal and rise to the top in order to skim it off, but you don’t have to.

Voila!  Home-made chicken stock, complete with healing properties and free of added scariness. Economical, too.  I try to make sure I always have at least one quart in my freezer at all times.  I love to make soup with it, but it’s also great for cooking rice, cous-cous, and quinoa, instead of water.  And it’s a wonderful base for many delicious sauces.

This is a great way to include a little stock in your diet everyday throughout the fall and winter season and build up your immune system naturally.

Vitamin C: Citrus Season is Coming

I think it’s no coincidence that oranges and clementines come into season right at the time when we need an extra dose of Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is a super immune booster, and the best way to take it is straight from the source.

Throughout most of the fall and especially the winter, our family consumes a lot of citrus.  It’s a perfect little snack for when we are on the go; just peel it at home, tuck the slices into a reusable snack bag, and stick it in your purse for later – an easy, delicious, and healthy immune boost.

Photo by Francisco Antunes

Vitamin D: Especially Needed in Winter

When the daylight hours begin to wane and sunshine is in short supply, we need to make extra sure that we’re getting enough Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is crucial for the immune system, as well as avoiding depression and other serious diseases as well. A few “real food” sources of Vitamin D include:

• pastured eggs – eat them for breakfast, or hard boil a dozen and pack one in a reusable snack bag each day.

• wild seafood – salmon, tuna, and shrimp are all good sources.

• cod liver oil – yes, it’s yucky tasting, but oh so good for you. Follow it up with a slice of orange and the taste will disappear quickly – or try cod liver oil capsules.

Photo by Christy McDonald

By making these foods a part of our diet in the fall and winter months, our family avoids many illnesses, and our immune systems are stronger and healthier.

How do you and your family boost your immune systems for cold and flu season?

This post is sponsored by Eco Lunch Gear.  Find reusable sandwich and snack bags,  cinch snacks, cloth napkins, and more, at Eco Lunch Gear’s online store.