Colds and flu seem to be rife when the seasons change - its down to a combination of shifts in temperature that allow a different group of viruses to flourish, and it's these viruses that make people ill. Research shows that rhinovirus and coronavirus are the two main agents of the common cold and they flourish in cooler weather, such as what we have during spring and autumn time.
The daily nourishment of your immune system can make a huge difference to how your autumn pans out, so try including some of these immune-boosting foods in your diet to give your self a head start on the bugs.
Oats are great for nurturing your immune system - they are a rich source of beta glucans which enable our immune system to recognise and destroy harmful organisms responsible for infections and disease.
Oats also provide the highest protein content of all the cereals - this is important because protein is essential for the production of antibodies which are particles that help the body win the fight against viruses.
They are also rich in vitamin E – a potent antioxidant - a deficiency of which prevents our immune system from killing harmful organisms. Almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and sunflower seeds are also excellent sources of vitamin E.
Vitamin D helps the immune system fight infections, people who are deficient in it are particularly vulnerable to infections. In fact vitamin D supplements were used to treat tuberculosis before antibiotics were widely available, a little known fact!
Although oily fish such as salmon as well as eggs and fortified breakfast cereals can provide us with some vitamin D, the skin's exposure to sunlight produces most of it. This presents a significant problem for British people living in the UK due to the limited amount of sun we get during autumn and winter time. Individuals with poor exposure to sunlight are recommended to take a high-dose vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin C is the most consumed supplement in the world! Many studies have shown that an adequate daily intake of vitamin C can not only prevent infections, but also reduce their severity and duration.
Food containing the highest concentration of vitamin C include acerola, rose hips, peppers and horseradish as well as kale, broccoli, strawberries, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and mango.
Orange fruit and vegetables
Vitamin A, like vitamin C and E, is a powerful antioxidant that affects the health of the body from the early stages of life. In fact maternal vitamin A levels influence the development of the baby’s immune system while it's still in the womb. Research has shown that a deficiency in vitamin A while pregnant may result in an impaired immune system in the baby, which is then difficult to reverse.
Fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and other foods such as cod-liver oil and whole milk, are all rich sources of vitamin A.
Folic acid is a B vitamin essential for the health of your immune system and for the repair of damaged cells in our body, which can lead to cancer formation and development.
Folic acid is contained in a wide range of foods including poultry, dark leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce, asparagus, citrus fruits, legumes and avocado.
Immune enhancing minerals
Minerals are not to be overlooked when it comes to identifying immune-enhancing foods. People affected by anaemia (caused by an iron deficiency) are more susceptible to infections and increased disease duration.
Red meat, fortified cereals, kale, broccoli, quinoa, and pulses are great sources of iron. Both zinc and selenium nourish the immune system and keep its cells healthy and active so a lack of which can compromise the immune system’s activity. Note they are only needed in very small amounts - if fact you can get your daily quota of selenium from one or two Brazil nuts!
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.