The best immunity-boosting foods

Want to avoid the dreaded flu this winter? Try these immunity-boosters to strengthen your defences.

Written by Katherine Baqleh
Green smoothie from fruit, leaves and seeds. A healthy eating and detox concept.

The sniffles, the coughs, the sick days, the burnout – we are all too familiar with the nasty bugs of winter that drain our bodies of the energy we need to perform at our best.

Although winter is hibernation time for many people, gaining a few kilos and catching a few colds can be prevented by choosing healthier snacks and pumping your hearty winter meals with immunity boosters.

Healthy fats, vitamins C, E and A, and the minerals zinc and iron are all important parts of a nourishing, healthy diet that will help you feel your best during the cooler months.

To optimise the function of your immune system and strengthen the infection-fighting capability of your cells, stay adequately hydrated and eat a wide variety of nutrient dense foods daily to boost key nutrient intake.

Here are some nutrients to focus on – and how to get them.

"Vitamin C and antioxidants are found in all fruits and vegetables, so enjoy a big variety of different, brightly coloured types."

1. Zinc and iron

Zinc and iron are found in lean red meat and seafood, brightly coloured fresh fruit and vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, dairy foods and nuts. Almost your entire daily recommended intake (RDI) is found in a single oyster, while half of your RDI can be found in a palm-sized piece of lean red meat.

2. Vitamin C and antioxidants

Vitamin C and antioxidants are found in all fruits and vegetables, so enjoy as much variety and brightly coloured types as you can every day. For maximum health benefits, swap boiling and frying for healthier cooking methods like steaming, microwaving, baking, grilling, roasting or stir-frying.

3. B vitamins

Wholegrains will contribute essential fibre and B-group vitamins.

"Green tea is packed with antioxidants, and can be a good way to increase your fluid intake."

4. Probiotics and prebiotics

The stress of modern life, the convenience of highly processed foods and the regular use of antibiotics have affected gut health. Researchers know that maintaining the right balance of good and bad gut bacteria is pivotal to optimal immune function. The regular inclusion of probiotics and prebiotics in our diets will strengthen gut defence.

Probiotics that are found in fermented vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut, fermented drinks such as Yakult, cultured yoghurts and oral pharmaceutical supplements will reintroduce good bacteria to the gut.

Prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria in the gut by passing through the digestive tract undigested, are found in fibre-rich foods such as legumes, fibre supplements such as psyllium, onion, beans, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes.

5. Garlic

Garlic is an immunity superfood, praised for centuries for the naturally occurring organosulfides it contains (antioxidant allicin). Allicin has been used to treat hypertension and bacterial and viral infections and, alongside Vitamin D, may stimulate the production of immunity cells.

6. Water and other fluids

Forgetting to drink water in winter is common, but dehydration is not only taxing on your digestion, it can also make cold and flu symptoms worse. Sip water throughout the day and stay hydrated before thirst hits.

Green tea is packed with antioxidants, and can be a good way to increase your fluid intake.

Sit back and relax. For a warming and soothing feast, nourish your body with a bowl of chicken soup (broth made from actual chicken bones) for a dose of carnosine and mix it with mushrooms for the powerful antioxidants ergothioneine and selenium.

Listen now for more immunity boosting tips for you and your family.

Written by Katherine Baqleh

Katherine Baqleh is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and runs a private dietetic practice, Health Victory Nutrition Experts.

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