Fabulous foods to fight cold and flu 

Winter not only brings us the colder weather, but it also heralds the beginning of the traditional cold and flu season.

However, the cooler months don’t necessarily have to equate with illness. Boosting your diet with nutritious comfort foods can do wonders for your immune system. This is particularly important for the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system, because colds and flu can lead to other health complications.

Foods to focus on

Eating a balanced diet will provide your body with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best, including helping the immune system to fight germs that cause colds and flu.

Focusing on foods of all colours (green, yellow, orange, red and purple) is the best way to ensure your body gets all the micronutrients your immune system needs. In particular, you should ensure your diet includes plenty of the following nutrients, to improve your immunity:

  • Vitamin C — capsicum (all colours), brocolli, sprouts, tomatoes, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, berries and citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, grapefuit and limes)
  • Vitamin E — broccoli, Brussels sprouts, almonds
  • Selenium — brazil nuts, meat and poultry
  • Zinc — fish, oysters, seafood, beef, lamb, rolled oats, baked beans and pumpkin seeds
  • Protein — red meat, poultry, fish, eggs
  • Healthy oils — salmon, tuna, flaxseeds and walnuts

Boost your breakfast

Breakfast is a great opportunity to start the day on a positive note when it comes to your daily nutrition. A bowl of warm porridge, made with whole rolled oats, and topped with berries and walnuts can give you comfort as well as a boost to the immune system.

Lavish lunches 

For a healthy winter lunch that will raise your immunity and keep colds and flu at bay, why not indulge in some grainy toast or a muffin, topped with baked beans and an egg. If you’re looking for something more substantial, a slow-cooked meal made with beef and winter vegetables will definitely hit the spot.

Super soups 

One of the best ways to super-charge your nutritional intake is by eating warming, nourishing soups that make the most of seasonable vegetables. The best options are those that use stock as the base and contain lots of vegetables, and some protein. Don’t forget that adding legumes and beans is a tasty and affordable way to bulk up the nutrition.

As to the old adage that chicken soup is great for treating colds, well research suggests that may be true. A study found that chicken soup may contain a number of substances, including an anti-inflammatory mechanism that could ease the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.

What else can you do? 

While eating well over the colder months is no guarantee that you’ll dodge all the germs, making nutritious food a priority over winter can reduce the likelihood and severity of colds. If you’re stuck for ideas, there are hundreds of healthy winter recipes available for free, online.
 
Other tips to avoid colds and flu this season include: 
  • Washing your hands thoroughly — before and after eating, and especially after coughing and sneezing
  • Avoiding large crowds and other sick people
  • Disinfecting surfaces regularly as these can harbour viruses
  • Exercising regularly, where appropriate 
  • Getting plenty of rest as this improves your immune system
  • Avoiding stress, as this weakens your immune system
  • Taking a good-quality vitamin and mineral supplement to fill any nutritional gaps. 

Please note:  The information supplied is general in nature. Please consult your medical practitioner for individual advice.

 

References

Cleveland Clinic, 5 Foods You Should Eat This Winter, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-foods-for-winter-weather/

Department of Health, Australian Influenza Surveillance Report and Activity Updates, (last updated November 2017) http://www.health.gov.au/flureport

Dietitians Association of Australia, Stay well this winter with winning meals, PRESS RELEASE, 8 June 2016 https://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Stay-well-this-winter-with-winning-meals-FINAL.pdf

Healthdirect, Vitamin C, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/vitamin-c

My Virtual Medical Centre, Cold and Flu Prevention, https://www.myvmc.com/lifestyles/cold-and-flu-prevention/

Nutrition Australia, Get the Edge for Winter — with Fruit & Veg, Media Release, 12 June 2005, http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/sites/default/files/winterveges_june05.pdf

Rennard BO,Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI., Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro., CHEST 2000 Volume 118, No. 4, pp 1150-57 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11035691