Joanne Smith and Kylie JamesFor many of us with spinal cord injuries, the winter season means we need to be prepared to do battle with the elements and the onslaught of nasty bugs that often come with it.

It is well documented that people with SCI are at high risk of developing pneumonia and other respiratory infections because of our compromised immune systems, especially those with cervical injuries. This is due in part to the changes that take place in our nervous and endocrine systems, as well as our tendency to be deficient in the consumption of immune boosting nutrients — namely vitamins A, C and zinc.

Vitamin A helps maintain the protective mucosal surfaces of your gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, which act as barriers to micro-organisms.

Vitamin C helps activate neutrophils, powerful white blood cells that work on the front line defense in fighting bacteria. It also increases the production of lymphocytes, the white blood cells that play important roles in antibody production and coordinating immune system functions.

Zinc helps reduce incidents of infection by increasing the production of white blood cells and enhancing their function. Studies identify that zinc can help reduce the incidence of pneumonia, respiratory infections and bronchitis.

One of the best foods you can arm yourself with this winter is kale. This nutrient-rich green leafy vegetable packs an immune-boosting punch with its high vitamin A, C and zinc content. An added bonus of this hearty vegetable is it doesn’t wilt like other leafy greens and will last in your fridge for two to three days after it’s made. So kale is a great time, money and energy saver for individuals looking for healthy, cost-friendly and easy to prepare foods.

So keep yourself safe from invading germs this winter by adding a handful to your smoothies, stir-fry dishes, or favorite soup.

Better yet, try making this delicious salad and give yourself a real immune system boost.

Joanne Smith and Kylie James are co-authors of the book Eat Well Live Well with SCI and Other Neurological Conditions. For more information on nutrition for neurological injuries, go to

Immune Boosting Salad
1 large bunch kale, torn up into bite-size pieces