These days cold and flu season kicks off at the start of winter and hangs around like an unwanted guest well into spring. But getting sick is not a given. Boosting your diet with nutritious food can do wonders for your immune system.
A healthy immune system is especially important for those with chronic health issues, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems because colds and flu can lead to other health complications.
Foods to focus on
Eating a balanced diet will provide your body with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best. It also helps your immune system to fight the germs that cause colds and flu.
Focusing on colourful foods (green, yellow, orange, red and purple) is the best way to ensure you get all the nutrients your immune system needs. Ensure your diet includes plenty of the following nutrients, to give your immune system a boost as the weather cools:
- Vitamin C— capsicum (all colours), broccoli, sprouts, tomatoes, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, berries and citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes)
- Vitamin E— broccoli, Brussels sprouts and almonds
- Selenium— brazil nuts, meat and poultry
- Zinc— fish, oysters, seafood, beef, lamb, rolled oats, baked beans and pumpkin seeds
- Protein— red meat, poultry, fish and eggs
- Healthy oils— salmon, tuna, flaxseeds and walnuts
Boost your breakfast
When it comes to your daily nutrition, breakfast is a great opportunity to start the day on a positive note. A bowl of warm porridge, made with whole rolled oats, and topped with berries and walnuts can give you comfort on a chilly morning as well as giving your immune system a pep up.
For a healthy winter lunch that will help keep colds and flu at bay, why not indulge in some grainy toast or a muffin, topped with baked beans and an egg? If you’re looking for something more substantial, a slow-cooked meal made with beef and winter vegetables will hit the spot.
One of the best ways to supercharge your nutritional intake is by eating warming, nourishing soups that make the most of seasonable vegetables. The best options are those that use stock as the base, contain lots of vegetables and include some protein. Don’t forget that adding legumes and beans is a tasty and affordable way to bulk up the nutrition.
You know the old adage that chicken soup is great for treating colds? Research suggests that may be true. A study found that chicken soup may contain several substances, including an anti-inflammatory mechanism, that could ease the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.
What else can you do?
While eating well over the colder months is no guarantee that you’ll dodge all the germs, making nutritious food a priority over winter can reduce the likelihood and severity of colds. If you’re stuck for ideas, there are hundreds of healthy winter recipes available for free online.
Other tips to avoid colds and flu this season include:
- Washing your hands thoroughly before and after eating, and especially after coughing and sneezing
- Avoiding large crowds and other sick people
- Disinfecting surfaces frequently as these can harbour viruses
- Exercising regularly, where appropriate
- Getting plenty of rest as this improves your immune system
- Avoiding stress, as this weakens your immune system
- Taking a good-quality vitamin and mineral supplementto fill any nutritional gaps.
Please note: The information supplied is general in nature. Please consult your medical practitioner for individual advice.
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