As winter fast approaches, it brings with it the dreaded cold and flu season! It can be all too easy to fall prey to the nasty winter bugs, but there is good news – by eating well you can get your immune system in fighting fit shape to reduce the likelihood of you succumbing to the coughs, colds and sniffles!
First up, overall you need a healthy balanced diet but below are some particularly important immune-boosting nutrients that may help you sail through winter feeling good throughout!
At the first sign of a cold many of us will reach for vitamin C tablets, however, if we’re already sick this won’t make any difference to our health. Vitamin C is a fantastic immune-boosting nutrient and powerful antioxidant, but to reap its benefits in preventing colds and flu, you need to be enjoying plenty of vitamin C rich foods every day. Colourful fruits and veggies, such as citrus fruits, kiwifruit, green veggies and capsicum, are all excellent sources – try adding some freshly sliced fruit to your morning oats or sliced kiwifruit to plain yoghurt along with some seeds or LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond mix) for a delicious mid-morning snack.
Your gut plays a very important role in your immune system. It acts as a barrier between your body and the outside world, providing the first line of defence to external pathogens (i.e. disease causing bacteria/viruses). Plus, it’s also where nutrients are absorbed from your food.
Keeping a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut (gut flora, the bacterial ecosystem that lives in our gut) helps strengthen your immunity which can only be good news! Including foods which are packed with healthy bacteria (probiotics) can be really helpful. Foods which are great for this include probiotic yoghurt, fermented milk drinks (e.g. Yakult) and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir or a good quality miso soup. Additionally, it may be beneficial to look into taking a high-quality probiotic supplement to help bump up your daily intake if needed. Talk to your local pharmacist or a qualified nutritionist/dietitian about this.
The mineral zinc plays an important role in keeping our immunity strong, and is helpful in reducing both the duration and symptoms of colds. Some of the best dietary sources include seafood, particularly oysters, lean red meats, wholegrain cereals and dairy products. Lentils and beans are also great sources of zinc and are wonderfully cheap – start including them in your hearty winter soups!