With health and wellness forever front of mind, we chat to Naturopath, Herbalist and Founder of The Secret Kitchen, Jana Brunclikova on top ways to boost immunity and charge metabolism as we hit the pavement a little less come wintertime.

M+E: Share with us your top three food sources/ingredients to fight immunity.


  • Garlic –Add some fresh garlic to your stir fries, pasta dishes and even salad dressing – not only will it enhance flavour, but it also contains unique immune boosting properties. Garlic has a long history of use as both a food and a medicine, and has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties
  • Ginger –Not only does ginger add delicious flavour to many dishes, it is traditionally used to help relieve some symptoms associated with the common cold and it’s warming properties make for a great home remedy during the colder months
  • Mushrooms –Varieties such as shiitake, maitake (‘hen of the woods’) and reishi are packed with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins B, C and D and bioactive compounds called beta-glucans (known to support immune defence)


“One cup of cooked kale provides nearly 90 per cent of your daily-recommended intake of vitamin C, a necessary nutrient to keep your metabolism (and strong immune system) humming. In fact, research shows that low levels of vitamin C can slow your fat burn by as much as 25 per cent …”

M+E: What are some easy ways we can incorporate these into our daily food routine?

JB: If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood-thinning medications, talk to your doctor before increasing your garlic intake. A common way to use garlic is to press a few fresh cloves and mix with extra virgin olive oil plus a pinch of salt. Mix in soups and any food combinations you like.

For the extra-brave/determined to do everything possible (and for those with sensitivity to internal garlic absorption) to avoid getting sick, old traditions recommend crushing a few cloves and putting them in socks to let the garlic absorb through your skin.

Easiest way to increase your ginger intake is to make a tea from fresh root:

Once your water is boiling, add ginger pieces, remove from the heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain the ginger and discard. You can also add medicinal honey such as manuka once the water has cooled for extra antimicrobial properties.

Use fresh shiitake mushrooms like you would common mushrooms (such as chestnut or white mushrooms). Stuff, stir-fry, steam, deep-fry, make a soup, make a risotto or blanch and add into your salad.

M+E: And what are some simple ways to boost metabolism as we hit the pavement a little less through the cooler months?

JB: It’s common throughout winter to crave more comfort foods/meals, many of which contain greater carbohydrates than we actually need (cue the winter weight gain!). While there is nothing wrong with adding some rice to your stir fry or quinoa alongside a stew, make sure you are mindful of your portions. ½ cup of cooked grain or other carbohydrate (like potato) is generally all you need. Bulk up the rest of your meal with veggies and remember to always make sure you have something green.

High in fibre and low in calories, kale is a perfect seasonal food to add to your diet. One cup of cooked kale provides nearly 90 per cent of your daily-recommended intake of vitamin C, a necessary nutrient to keep your metabolism (and strong immune system) humming. In fact, research shows that low levels of vitamin C can slow your fat burn by as much as 25 per cent … Try making your own kale chips for snacks/movies in the cooler months:

Lightly coat chopped kale leaves with olive oil spray and sprinkle with savoury yeast flakes for an extra cheesy flavour (or any herbs and a bit of salt if you like); put on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F (180 C) for about 10 minutes.

M+E: Your top two easy mid-week meals during winter? 

JB: Soup broths as you can add any aforementioned immune boosting ingredients, plus turmeric for antioxidants, lemon for extra C, apple cider vinegar for healthy gut flora and alkalinity, and greens for fibre and nutrients. And don’t be afraid to spice it up!

Herbs and spices are loaded with substances called phytochemicals. These chemicals are non-nutritive, meaning that they don’t add any energy to our diet, but help program our cells to work more efficiently. Specific phytochemicals have specific actions. Some with the most immune boosting actions are found in onions, chili, thyme and rosemary.

M+E: What are some simple ways we can start incorporating more plant based foods into our diet, and what are the benefits?

JB: Nature is made of five elements (ether/space, air, fire, water, and earth) and we, too, have these elements within. It is the expression of these elements that makes each living being unique.

You are what you eat – simply grow your own garden or eat seasonal produce (support your local farmer or regenerative farm). Making conscious nutritional choices based on foods from Mother Earth is a way to tune into your body, build a deeper connection and enhance awareness. Our souls are expansive. When we fuel our body with plant-based nutrition, cleansing of stress and toxicity and creating an inner experience of love, we find our natural essence. Our physical, mental, and emotional bodies are primed to let ourselves play in the earth and express our talents, gifts and abilities without limitation.

M+E: Your very first cookbook and ‘can’t live without’ recipe source today?

JB: The Secret Kitchen Book is designed to help understand how our bodies work together with the power of nature and its cycles. I would like this book to be an inspiration to shift us from rule based eating to intuitive eating. Ancient wisdom, folk remedies and naturopathic insights are weaved into a collection of recipes, film photographs and poetry to share a memory of the fields of wildflowers where I grew up. You can find it, here.

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