Vitamins and minerals play a vital role in supporting our immune systems at all times of the year and, as winter draws in, they are an important defence against unwanted colds and flu.
A new study has found that zinc can be effective in fending off coughs and colds. Even then, if you do succumb, your symptoms are likely to be milder and less prolonged. The best natural sources of zinc are oysters, crab and mussels. If you prefer to keep things seafood-free then mushrooms and spinach are also key sources of zinc. Mushrooms also contain vitamin D and spinach is packed with vitamin C, so they are multitaskers worth adding to your shopping list.
Other great sources of vitamin C include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, green and red peppers.
Vitamin D, another nutrient important for our immune function, can be in lower supply in the winter months with less sunshine around. Oily fish are the best food source of vitamin D, such as mackerel and sardines. However, vitamin D is the most likely weapon in your armoury that's not kept topped up sufficiently by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. So, most experts recommend taking supplements, and research by Queen Mary London found that vitamin D supplements helped to cut the risk of colds and flu by half.
The food we eat directly affect the diversity and composition of bacteria in the gut, which in turn affect immune cells. The best way to support gut health is to eat plenty of fibre and starting the day with Bircher muesli will get your gut off to a flying start. To top up your fibre further, make whole fruit your snack of choice - berries, bananas, apples and pears are all great for the gut.