If you want to avoid colds and flu this season, it's worth boosting your body's natural defences now. Read on for the best foods to eat to help keep coughs and sneezes at bay...
Fruit & veg
Eating fresh fruit and vegetables is the best way to get the vitamins and antioxidants your body needs to help fight off infections like colds and flu. Good sources of antioxidants include Vitamin A, vitamins C, E and selenium – low levels of which have been linked to increased risk of developing more severe flu. Choose orange-coloured vegetables, such as carrots and pumpkin, which are good sources of beta carotene. Selenium is found in foods including soybeans, lentils, oysters, crab, mussels, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, yogurt, cashews, peanuts, Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds.
Research shows that eating almonds can help the body to fight off viral infections, including the common cold and flu. The goodness is found in the skin of the nut, which contains naturally-occurring chemicals which help white blood cells to detect viruses and so prevent them from replicating and spreading inside the body. Almonds are also a good source of Vitamin E, needed for a healthy immune system and to help protect cells against free radical damage.
Vitamin D doesn't just help produce strong bones and teeth. Studies show that the vitamin strengthens the body's immune system and is able to 'trigger and arm' the body's T cells to attack invaders and fight infection. Most of the body's vitamin D is produced by exposure to sunshine, so in winter it's a good idea to stock up on vitamin-D rich foods or take a supplement. Good sources include salmon, sardines, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals, breads and spreads.
Studies show that taking zinc during the early onset of a cold is able to shorten its duration. As too much zinc is bad for you (it reduces the amount of copper the body can absorb, which can lead to anaemia and weakening of the bones), experts advise not to take more than 25mg of zinc supplements a day. Good sources of zinc include lamb, beef, oysters, prawns, milk, cheese, wholemeal bread, wheat germ, spinach, cashew nuts and mushrooms.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, can help give your immune system a boost, as well as being good for your heart. Don't like fish? Try adding a couple of teaspoons of raw flax oil to your regular foods or take a supplement.
Garlic has been celebrated for its protective properties for centuries - and not just against vampires. The pungent food stimulates the production of infection-fighting white cells, boosting the body's antibody production.
Have you switched to a healthy diet recently? Leave a comment below...