I was recently quoted in Essentials Magazine talking about how to boost your immune system and prevent a cold, aka how to ‘winter-proof your body’! You’re 80% more likely to get a cold in the winter so making sure that your immune system is in tip-top condition is super important!
So, read on for my top tips on how you can keep healthy this winter..
- 1) There is good evidence to show that Probiotics (live bacteria which help to keep your gut healthy) support the immune system. You can find probiotics in natural yoghurt, probiotic drinks and miso soup! For inspiration on how to incorporate yoghurt into your diet check out my [recipes using yoghurt]!
- 2) Eating enough Vitamin A is essential as it helps to keep the membranes in our nose and throat healthy; these are our front-line defences against bacteria getting in! To get your daily recommended intake of vitamin A (0.6mg for women & 0.7mg for men) you could eat one large sweet potato (e.g. in my Healthy Shepherd’s Pie!), or a large handful of spinach thrown into a salad or stir-fry. These foods contain beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which your body converts into vitamin A as you need it.. how clever!
- 3) Vitamin C is an important antioxidant and it has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of a cold, and in those experiencing extreme physical stress e.g. athletes, vitamin C has been shown to reduce the incidence of colds by as much as 50%. You can skip the supplements though as you can get your recommended daily intake (40mg) in half a pepper or a small handful of strawberries (Healthy Eton Mess anyone?!).
- 4) Vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin) is needed to stimulate the cells that fight infection. We get most of our vitamin D from the action of sunlight (in the summer months!) on our skin, but it is also found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel (check out my fish dishes for inspiration!), eggs (excellent in an omelette!) and fortified powdered milk.
- 5) If you’re deficient in Iron your immune system works less efficiently. Men require 8.7mg a day and women require up to 14.8mg a day. Good sources of iron include liver, meat (such as beef), beans, nuts, dried fruit, whole grains and dark-green leafy vegetables; the vitamin C also found in vegetables helps to facilitate iron absorption. Tea and coffee can hinder iron absorption so make sure to drink these 30 minutes either side of a meal!
- 6) Zinc is essential for wound healing and it has also been shown to reduce the incidence, and shorten the duration of a cold. Men need 5.5-9.5mg of zinc a day and women need 4-7mg. Good sources of zinc include meat, shellfish (check out my prawn tagliatelle dish for inspiration!), milk, dairy foods and bread.
- 7) Garlic can improve the ability to fight infection and has been show to reduce the risk of the common cold by as much as 60%. There is also evidence to support the use of North American Ginseng Extracts in the prevention of the common cold.. I don’t personally take this but the evidence is there!
- 8) Exercise! Research shows that if you exercise just a few times every week you can drastically reduce the number of colds that you catch every year. Exercise not only makes you stronger but it boosts the immune system so that your body is better able to fight infections if you become ill. For health, it is recommended to exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week, including resistance exercise (i.e. muscle strengthening) too. If you exercise more vigorously (e.g. do HIIT) then you won’t need to work-out for as long.
- 9) Maintaining a Healthy Weight is essential for overall health and preventing disease. Losing weight can be easy when you follow my simple weight loss tips.
- 10) And what about the classic Chicken Soup?! Although this seemingly ‘magic soup’ isn’t proven to cure a common cold, all hot beverages (including chicken soup) can help to alleviate the symptoms of a cold such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat, sneezing and chills. Check out my Cherry Chai Almond Latte or Skinny Chocolate Milk for more hot beverage inspiration (either them or a warm tea!).
I really hope these tips help… do you have any?! A few other of my personal tips include getting enough sleep (at least 7-8 hours every night), avoiding smoking and not drinking alcohol to excess.. check out my 5 Top Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle for more information!
Above: Quoted in Essentials Magazine February 2014, page 63.