The dreaded cold and flu season is officially upon us. Prevention is better than cure so this winter, bolster your defences against bugs by stocking your pantry with these immune boosting, flu-fighting foods. Also remember to wash your hands often, take a good strength multi-vitamin and get enough sleep every night – sound winter advice from Patrick Holford.
1. Look for foods that are rich in colour — that’s a good sign that they’re also high in immunity-boosting antioxidants. Red, yellow, purple, blue, and orange fruits and vegetables really fit the bill here. Stock up with sweet potatoes, berries, especially raspberries, blueberries and cherries, carrots and papaya.
2. Stock up on Vitamin D rich foods, including oily fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon and nuts like pecans, chestnuts and macadamia as well as pumpkin and sunflower seeds. In a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children who took daily Vitamin D supplements were 40% less likely to get a common flu virus than kids who took a placebo.
3. Foods high in B complex vitamins. This family of essential nutrients is important for every single cell of our bodies, including those of the immune system. Major sources of all B vitamins are liver, yeast and wholegrains, especially wheat germ. Other foods that contain B vitamins include mushrooms, asparagus, peas, beans, watercress, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, courgettes, spinach, Brussels sprouts, lentils, eggs, avocado, tomatoes, kidney beans, oysters, sardines, tuna, meat, dairy products and seeds and nuts.
4. Vitamin C. In truth, a whole book could be written about Vitamin C and its effects on the immune system. Foods that contain the most Vitamin C are peppers, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, lemons, kiwi fruit, Brussels sprouts, papaya, peas, melon, oranges, grapefruit, limes, tomatoes, tangerines and mangoes. It is worth supplementing more Vitamin C during winter when our need is greater and supply, in terms of fresh fruit, can often be poorer.
5. The minerals calcium and magnesium are vital for the immune system. Although dairy products are full of calcium, they are a very poor source of magnesium. The one is useless without the other and they need to be in balance. There are much better dietary sources which are rich in both, i.e. seeds, nuts and vegetables, especially those with a solid structure such as root vegetables (Sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes and butternut).