Your immune system most likely hasn’t really been tested for the past 18 months, so it’s important to show it some love through the foods you eat, says our ‘Mindful Eater’ Sam Rice…
While the pandemic is far from over, people are getting used to the virus being in general circulation and guards are slowly coming down. As a result, your rusty immune system is more susceptible to the usual cough and cold bugs that abound at this time of year.
Keeping yourself fit and healthy should be your first line of defence in boosting your immunity. Eating a well-balanced diet is key. Include plenty of lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Also, be sure to eat the rainbow when it comes to fruit and vegetables.
Other than this broad-brush dietary advice, there are a few nutrients that play a key role in supporting your body’s own defences. With cold and flu season in full swing, now is the perfect time to up your intake.
Key nutrients to support your immune system
Studies have shown that vitamin C helps reduce the length and severity of infections. Foods rich in vitamin C to eat in abundance include citrus fruits, peppers, tomatoes, kiwis and broccoli.
Deficiency in this vitamin is associated with a weakened immune system and a higher risk of infection. Because of this, it’s worth keeping topped up.
You can find vitamin A in the form of retinol (yes, the stuff that can help prevent wrinkles!) from sources such as milk, liver, and carotenoids, which are present in a variety of plants especially orange ones. Try adding carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and papaya to your diet.
This vitamin is known to enhance the function of immune cells that protect the body against viruses. You synthesise most of your vitamin D from sunshine. Therefore, it can be a challenge to produce enough in the darker months.
Food sources of vitamin D include eggs, whole milk and oily fish, but a vitamin D supplement is advised from October to March.
Remember: Over and above diet, getting enough sleep, taking regular exercise and managing stress levels are all crucially important in keeping your immune system firing on all cylinders.
Top 3 foods for boosting your immune system
These are extremely high in vitamin C as well as capsaicin. This helps reduce pain and inflammation. Blend some into houmous for a chilli hit.
Studies show that 3-6 cloves of garlic can help reduce the risk of developing a cold or infection. Make a bruschetta topping by mixing crushed garlic with diced tomatoes and olive oil.
This cheap and sustainable fish is a great source of vitamin D. Mash a tin of sardines in olive oil with diced red onion, chopped parsley, chopped black olives and lemon juice for a delicious pâté.
The Midlife Method: How to lose weight and feel great after 40, by Sam Rice (£14.99, Headline Home) is available now.