What to eat to boost your immunity and help you fight the flu this winter.
In recent years we have learned the importance of things like social distancing and good hand hygiene to help combat the spread of disease, but it can be easy to overlook the everyday basics that will keep our immune systems in good stead.
Yes, it is correct, the cooler winter months increase our chances of catching the common cold or the flu (or influenza). This is because the shorter days and longer nights of winter mean less sunlight and thus less natural vitamin D – which helps power the immune system. This consequently makes us more vulnerable to infection. However, boosting your diet with nutritious comfort foods can do wonders for your immune system and keep you fighting fit this winter!
Soup is a great option as it’s a gentle and comforting way to get your vegetables, protein and fluid which will put you on the road to recovery as quickly as possible. The steam from a hot soup can also help to break up any congestion and soothe a sore throat. Just be wary of the sodium content in store-bought versions, particularly canned and “just add water” varieties.
There’s nothing more comforting than a hot cup of tea when you’re under the weather. Tea is full of antioxidants and can provide much-needed relief to a sore throat and stuffy nose. It can also help suppress coughing. Turn your tea into a flavour bomb by adding a teaspoon of honey or a squeeze of lemon. Ginger tea can be a great option when you’re unwell, as it can help fight nausea. Ginger has a whole stack of vitamins and minerals, plus it creates a warming sensation that can make you feel a whole lot better on a cold day.
Garlic contains a number of nutrients that have been shown to be good for your health, including oligosaccharides, which are a type of fermentable carbohydrate that help promote a healthy microbiome and good gut health. Garlic may even help reduce your likelihood of catching a cold. Some studies have shown that people who consumed garlic daily caught the common cold less frequently than those who did not consume garlic.
If you’re a meat eater, red meats such as beef and lamb contain lots of iron and zinc. Having low blood levels of iron and zinc can weaken the immune system which can make us more susceptible to illnesses such as the flu. Enjoy a portion of red meat twice per week to help maintain your iron and zinc levels.
Chickpeas may not sound very glamorous, but they’re actually nutrition powerhouses! Chickpeas and other legumes, such as lentils, kidney beans, black beans and baked beans, are high in fibre as well as protein. Fibre is important for keeping your gut healthy, which is crucial during cold and flu season, as your gut plays a major role in immunity. Protein is also key because it will help to build and repair cells, which is vital when fighting illness.
When thinking of flu-fighting foods, vitamin C is probably the first thing you think of, and for good reason. Vitamin C plays an important role in keeping your immune system working at its best and helps your body to absorb iron from your diet. Rather than reaching for juice, opt for a whole piece of fruit like oranges, grapefruit or kiwi fruit. Aside from being refreshing, citrus fruits are bursting with vitamin C which can help with making symptoms milder and can shorten the length of illness.
How many times we you told to ‘eat your greens as a child’? Greens are fantastic for your health! They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but at the same time are extremely low in fat and sugar. Leafy greens like spinach, silver beet, Brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli are bursting with nutrients and can help boost your immune system when you’re not feeling well. They’re full of vitamin C and fibre, which your body needs to stay healthy and fight disease. For optimum health, we should be aiming to eat 5 servings of veg each day. With vegetable intake, variety is key to make sure you get all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy – and don’t forget to include those leafy greens! A serving of leafy greens is 75g, or about 1 cup of raw greens (like chopped lettuce, kale or rocket) or ½ cup of cooked greens (like broccoli, cabbage or English spinach).
It’s easy to get dehydrated with the flu. Not only do you tend to eat and drink less due to a decreased appetite, but you also lose hydration with sweat when you have a fever. If water on its own doesn’t appeal you can add some citrus to your water for some extra vitamin C, or drink tea, broth or even the odd cup of coffee just to keep your fluids up.