Flu fighting foods

With winter officially upon us, many of us will be expecting an outbreak of those dreaded cold and flu symptoms. At this time of year it is important to ensure your immune system is fully up to scratch and ready to ward off any incipient illness. This article discusses the main nutrients involved in building a healthy immune system, as well as a list of vital foods you need to eat to ensure your immune-busting defenses are fully stocked!

Flu fighting foods

The reality is that many of us will get a cold this winter with over two hundred easy-to-catch,
common cold viruses circling around us. However, eating well and staying healthy helps to build your immune defences, which serve to reduce both the severity and the duration of a cold, as well as reducing the risks of you catching one in the first place. Fruits and vegetables are hugely important in building a healthy immune system, as they contain plenty of antioxidants to protect your body’s cells. Therefore getting your five fruit and vegetables a day is even more important during the winter months – as is keeping hydrated with plenty of fluids.

A range of vitamins and minerals are thought to be extremely important in helping you build a healthy immune system, the most important and effective of these being vitamins A, C, D and E, and vital minerals such as zinc, iron and selenium. Below is a list of the top foods which contain these vitamins and minerals – so you and your family can eat your way to good health all winter long!

Vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system

  • Vitamin A – found in dairy foods, eggs, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and/kale). Orange coloured fruits such as mango and apricots also contain plenty of vitamin A.
  • Vitamin C – virtually all vitamin C in the diet is obtained from fruits and vegetables (especially uncooked fruit and vegetables). The most beneficial are citrus fruits and berries, green vegetables, peppers and tomatoes. Potatoes also contain high levels of vitamin C.
  • Vitamin D – vitamin D is found in very few foods and mainly derived from the sun during the summer months. However, recent concern has been raised over potential deficiencies of this vitamin, which many people face during the winter months. Oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals do contain some vitamin D but it may be worth talking to your doctor about taking a daily 10mg supplement. Supplements are also recommended for all pregnant women.
  • Vitamin E – a reasonable number of foods contain vitamin E and it is therefore not difficult to obtain vitamin E in a normal diet. Rich sources of this nutrient include: vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, egg yolks and cereal products.
  • Iron – meat, pulses, nuts, eggs, dried fruits, fish, whole grains and dark green leafy vegetables are all high in iron. This very important mineral is often found to be low in the diets of women and children, so make sure you stock up on some of these sources of iron and ensure that your children are also getting plenty.
  • Zinc – this nutrient is found in foods such as meat, milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, pulses and whole grains.
  • Selenium – again good sources of this nutrient include bread, fish, meat, eggs and brazil nuts.

Photography: Sara H @Flickr

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