Bowl of salad with chicken and cranberries

Boosting immunity through food

Published on : 9/17/20
  • In recent years, consumers across the globe have gravitated toward functional foods, or those that provide added health benefits beyond base nutrition.

    Pre- and probiotics, fermented foods and beverages (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut and kombuchas) are edging their way onto more menus, as consumers are prioritizing gut and immune health more so than ever before, bolstered by the food-as-medicine movement. 

    COVID-19 has only accelerated this growing trend. Individuals are better understanding food not only for its flavor and format, but its function – particularly its immune-boosting qualities. 

    As travel restrictions ease and “next normal” operations resume, Sodexo’s airport lounge teams stand ready, not only to serve functional foods but to optimize preflight nutrition for travelers and boost immunity without compromising on taste.

    “The air pressure drops as you climb to a higher altitude during a flight. That means less oxygen gets to the body,” says Jackie Womble, Senior Manager of Health & Wellbeing, Sodexo North America.

    “Changes in elevation often cause individuals to feel bloated or dehydrated. We know the effects that travel has on the body – especially on long flights. We have a responsibility to help preserve travelers’ health for that experience.”

    Approximately 70 percent of the body’s immune system is housed in the gut. Guests can expect to see more fiber-rich foods like sweet potatoes, broccoli, beans, nuts and seeds on menus, as fiber helps promote a healthy digestive system and alleviate the bloating that long-haul travel can bring.

    “Well before the pandemic, we began serving flavor-infused waters for hydration, plus immune-boosting shots as alternatives to fizzy drinks,” says Glynn Lawrence, Sodexo’s Airline Lounges Global Executive Chef.

    “While we’ve always focused on preparing the body for flight, we’re placing greater emphasis on immune-boosting ingredients like ginger, turmeric and citrus, red berries and peppers.”

    Glynn LawrenceResearch shows citrus fruits are the No. 1 food consumers believe will boost their immunity during COVID-19, as they are packed with vitamin C. “Cauliflower, which is rich in antioxidants and fiber and supports sluggish digestion, is another immune-boosting ingredient travelers can expect to find on our carefully crafted menus,” Lawrence notes. In Europe, fish is also strategically incorporated on the menu (especially oily fish like salmon and tuna), as it is rich in vitamin D and “plays a key role in the immune system,” according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Plant-based and whole-grain foods are particularly popular with travelers, too, as they are looking for healthier alternatives,” explains Lawrence.

    Through an operational lens, the way Sodexo serves these functional foods has changed. “Globally, we’re shifting from self-serve buffets to smaller individual dishes,” says Lawrence. “In doing so, we also have more control over presentation.” Smaller, more artfully prepared dishes help reinforce the luxury experience that guests expect in the airport lounge while still providing the added health benefits they seek. 

    Adrian UpwardIn the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, our teams’ focus on exceptional experiences is akin to that of North America and Europe. “Food is served only à la carte and tableside – and that will continue for the time being,” asserts Adrian Upward, Director of Culinary for Airline Lounges in Hong Kong. “Guests will feel an uplift in hospitality.” 

    Functional foods with added comfort and familiarity are the focus in APAC, according to Upward. Chefs are paying homage to regional favorites and classics, like wonton noodle soup, heralded as a signature offering in APAC lounges. 

    There is a sustained focus on balancing the warmth of the gut for good health in the APAC region. To that end, Upward shares that bone broths will continue to be a menu staple for their immune-boosting qualities, while raw and chilled foods will be avoided. 

    As travel continues to be impacted by COVID-19, Sodexo maintains a holistic approach to health and well-being. For more insight and information about how Sodexo is helping its global airline lounge clients adjust to the next normal, learn about our Rise with Sodexo program.

    Learn more about how Sodexo can help you create an unforgettable lounge experience.

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