While social distancing, washing hands often and not touching your face are the prescribed ways to combat the spread of COVID-19, being aware of your overall health and striving for optimal nutrition allows the immune system to function at its best!

There’s also the upside that cooking makes you happy. A recent study published in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science found that “the act of cooking improves a person’s well-being and is associated with life satisfaction.”

So aprons on and check what’s in the fridge. Or start making a shopping list that includes fresh mushrooms – whichever kind you like and can find on supermarket shelves.

Fresh mushrooms, with their meaty texture and unmistakable umani flavour, simply make meals more satisfying, and their versatility allows your inner chef free reign at least three times a day!

Fresh mushrooms are a hero food for health and especially the immune system. “Eating more mushrooms is associated with greater consumption of vegetables in general, contributing to an overall more nutritious diet,” writes dietitian Ansley Hill on Healthline.

And for an added superfood boost, mushrooms are excellent pan-pals with other easy to find, affordable and flavoursome ingredients that are high in antioxidants to support immune function.

  • LEMONS are high in vitamin C, which is important for keeping your immune system functioning properly. “Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections,” notes Healthline. Fresh mushroom also contains a small about of vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron, especially from non-meat sources like the mushrooms themselves! Spritz fresh lemon juice over fried mushrooms for brightness, use in Thai mushroom-noodle dishes for a deliciously sour note or try making Mushroom Ceviche.

  • GARLIC and fresh mushrooms are both considered to have natural antibacterial qualities. Many antibiotics are actually derived from fungi and just one clove of garlic contains more than “100 sulfuric compounds – powerful enough to wipe out bacteria and infection,” states WebMD. Garlic is most beneficial when consumed raw, but feel free to load it into grilled mushroom caps, flavour mushroom potjies or indulge in Buttery Garlic Mushrooms on Polenta with Parmesan.

  • GINGER has proven anti-inflammatory properties; as do fresh mushrooms. In addition, they both contain the trace minerals copper, selenium and zinc, which help maintain the health of your DNA. Ginger is a beautiful aromatic for everything from mushroom-laden stir-fries to fragrant Mini Mushroom Laksa.

  • TOMATOES and mushrooms are good sources of fibre. Tomatoes are also packed with the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, which work well in tandem with the many antioxidants in fresh mushrooms. Tomatoes are most nutritious eaten raw, perhaps in a grilled-mushroom caprese salad, or showcase their co-star culinary qualities in a comforting Tomato and Mushroom Dhal.

  • ROSEMARY has many health benefits. Like fresh mushrooms, it contains vitamin B6, which helps regulates sleep, and in turn is good for your immune system, physical and mental health. Use rosemary fronds to thread chicken and mushroom skewers for the braai or flavour everything from mushroom stuffing to Funghi Farciti (Stuffed Mushrooms).

  • TURMERIC is a gorgeous golden root with many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, used for centuries to combat ailments from the common cold to depression and arthritis. Fresh mushrooms are a great source of antioxidants, too. In fact, says Healthline’s Ansley Hill, they contain “several antioxidants not present in most other food. ”Turmeric is an essential in vegetable and mushroom-based Indian curries, mushroom frittata and risotto or Spicy Spring Onion & Mushroom Pancakes.