This year’s flu season is predicted to be one of the worst for decades, and with the recent sub-zero temperatures the NHS is likely to be feeling even more pressure.
Earlier this week the NHS warned the snowy weather could trigger a rise in the number admitted to hospital.
The cold weather leaves people vulnerable to flu and colds.
It is thought that lots of time spent indoors in close contact with others, and that cold weather wears down our body’s defences could be some of the reasons.
Give your immune system a fighting chance with these ten foods.
Virgin coconut oil
The trendy health staple could help rebuild your body’s defences.
“The type of fat found in coconuts may help protect you against various viral, bacterial and fungal infections,” explained Pippa Campbell, nutrition and weight loss coach.
The popular vegetable is high in disease-fighting vitamin C.
“Broccoli contains more than our RDA of vitamin C in just 100 grams – about one third of a head of broccoli),” explained Cassandra Barns, a nutritionist.
“It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can support detoxification too, both of which can help us to stay well – or feel better faster. “Because heat can destroy vitamin C, broccoli must be only lightly cooked to get the most benefits – steam it for no more than four minutes.”
It helps prevent a hangover, but the root may also help fight colds.
“Ayurvedic medicine has relied on ginger’s ability to boost your immune system before recorded history,” said Campbell.
“It’s believed that ginger helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in our organs due to its warming effects.
“Additionally, it’s known to cleanse the lymphatic system, our network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.”
They are very high in zinc, a crucial mineral for our immune system.
In fact, they have a plethora of immune-supporting nutrients including selenium, vitamin B12, iron and vitamin A.
If seafood isn’t for you, beef lamb, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are also good sources of zinc.
The adaptogen can help boost your immune system and fight infections.
“The roots, stems and leaves of ginseng have been used for maintaining immune homeostasis and enhancing resistance to illness or infection,” explained Campbell.
“It also has antimicrobial compounds that work as a defence mechanism against bacterial and viral infections.”
It contains vitamin D which is vital for immunity and often in short supply during winter when it’s less sunny.
“A few foods contain vitamin D in useful amounts, and one of the top players is salmon: it can provide around 600–700 IU in 100 grams – enough to cover the current recommended daily intake,” said Barns.
“As a bonus, salmon is also high in vitamin B12 and selenium, two other critical nutrients for your immune system; and of course omega-3 fatty acids. If you can, go for wild sockeye salmon for the greatest benefits.”
If you’re not a fan of fish, she suggested taking Quest Nutra Pharma’s Once A Day Sunshine D.
The popular choice for warding off vampires, could also ward off infection.
“Early civilisations recognised the value of garlic in fighting infections,” said Campbell.
“Garlic is even more immune boosting if eaten raw, unless you have gut issues and can’t tolerate it this way.
“Add it to soups, stews and salad dressings.”
Another excellent source of vitamin C.
“It contains ism of the highest levels, often better than oranges,” said Barns.
“I always stock up on kiwi fruits if I’m coming down with a cold or trying to get over one.”
The herb has a multitude of protective health benefits.
“Oregano essential oil is known for its healing and immune-boosting properties,” explained Campbell.
“It fights infections naturally due to its anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasite compounds.”
Foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash are ideal to load up on in winter.
“They contain lots of beta-carotene, which our body can use to make vitamin A – a vital nutrient both for immunity and also for the mucous membranes – the ‘inner linings’ of our body, including those of our lungs and respiratory passages,” said Barns.
“Add plenty of orange veg to your winter stews, or roast them in big batches to eat as a side with any meal.”