This winter, the reality is that many of us will catch the cold or end up with the flu. With over two hundred easy-to-catch, common cold viruses circling around us, it’s easy to see how.
However, eating well and staying healthy helps to build your immune defences, which serve to reduce both the severity and the duration of a cold, as well as reducing the risks of you catching one in the first place.
Fruits and vegetables (of course!)
So the first thing to do is to make sure you stock your cupboards with immune-friendly fruits and vegetables! Fruits and vegetables contain plenty of nutrients essential in immune health such as antioxidants (protect the body’s cells from infection), and an array of vitamins and minerals. Therefore eating your ‘5 or more’ fruits and veggies is never more important than in these winter months.
Although it’s getting colder, it’s still important to stay hydrated to make sure your body gets enough fluid to keep functioning properly. Water and fluid help to transport nutrients around the body as well as ensure proper functioning of all cells, tissues and organs. Remember that water, tea and coffee all count towards fluid intake. Click this link for more information on keeping hydrated.
Specific immune boosting nutrients
A wide range of nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals, are essential in building and maintaining an effective immune system. So making sure you get plenty of these could be the answer to a flu-free winter.
Vitamins A, C, D and E are associated with immune health, as are the minerals zinc, iron and selenium. The table below demonstrates which foods contain these essential nutrients which are so important in boosting your immune health.
Table 1 – Immune boosting nutrients and where to find them in the diet:
|Vitamin A is found in plenty of foods such as sweet potato, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale), squash and also in some meat and eggs. Orange coloured fruits such as mango and apricots also contain plenty of vitamin A.
|Most of the vitamin C we get from our diet comes from fruit and veggies and se eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables will ensure you aren’t short of vitamin C. However, the foods highest in vitamin C tend to be citrus fruits, berries, green vegetables, peppers and tomatoes. Potatoes also contain high levels of vitamin C.
|The majority of our vitamin D is obtained from sunlight in the months between April and October. Vitamin D is available in the diet in very few foods. Some vitamin D can be found in oily fish, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals however, this is unlikely to be enough to ensure adequate vitamin D in the body. For more information on Vitamin D see our blog on vitamin D deficiency. Supplements are also recommended for all pregnant women and some young children.
|A large number of foods contain vitamin E which means that if you’re eating a balanced diet, your more than likely to be getting enough. However, rich sources of vitamin E include: nuts and seeds, egg yolks and cereal products.
|Plenty of foods are high in iron but that doesn’t stop us from not getting enough. IN fact many women and children in the UK have iron deficiency so it is important to make sure you are stocking up. Foods high in iron include: beans, lentils, pulses, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and dark green leafy vegetables as well as meat, eggs and fish.
|Found mainly in meat, milk, cheese and other dairy foods as well as eggs, nuts, pulses and wholegrains.
|Bread, fish, meat, eggs and brazil nuts are all high in selenium.
Have a Healthy Winter!