What To Eat To Beat Cold And Flu Season
‘Tis the season for the sniffles – but it doesn’t mean you’re destined to get them. Don’t be one of the statistics who will get an average of 2-4 colds this year. Get enough micronutrients instead.
Major in the micros
First of all – what? Science lesson alert: There are two types of nutrients you’ve got to get from your diet – macro and micro. Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and fats while vitamins and minerals make up micronutrients. All nutrients play different but vital roles in your health, wellbeing and immunity.
“There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses in animals, as measured in the test tube. However, the impact of these immune system changes on the health of animals is less clear, and the effect of similar deficiencies on the human immune response has yet to be assessed. But the research at this stage is promising, at least for some of the micronutrients,” explains The Harvard Medical School.
In other words, you may want to take note of these vitamin and mineral dense foods and add them to your weekly shopping list:
Vitamin A - Milk, cheese, eggs (yolk), orange and yellow fruits and vegetables
Vitamin B - Legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables
Vitamin C - Citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberry, parsley, cabbage
Vitamin D – Egg (yolks), cheese, fatty fish, fortified dairy and cereals
Vitamin E - Olives and olive oil, avocado, wholegrain cereals
Iron - Lean meat, green leafy vegetables, legumes
Calcium - Dairy products, almonds, tahini, green leafy vegetables
Magnesium - Nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes, green leafy vegetables
Zinc - Lean meat, chicken, fish, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, oysters
Selenium - Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, oats
Don’t forget your flavonoids
Certain phytonutrients, especially flavonoids, are all about enhancing your immune function. Getting them is as simple and as difficult as eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruit – at least five and two servings a day (respectively), according to The Australian Dietary Guidelines. Make sure you include blueberries and apple in your fruit quota. Research from the University of Auckland found adults who eat flavonoid-rich foods – found in green tea, apples, blueberries, cocoa, red wine and onions, or take flavonoid supplements – are 33 percent more protected from the common cold, compared with those who do not. Lead researcher Dr Andrea Braakhuis says people who eat flavonoids also have fewer sick days. “These findings show that if you’re generally healthy, eating flavonoids found in lots of fruits and vegetables, can help stave off the bugs over winter. We’d all love to make it through winter without one of these nasty colds. They’re a leading cause of visits to a doctor, so it’s worth giving flavonoids a go as part of a healthy diet,” says Braakhuis. Stuck for inspiration? Try porridge with grated apple and blueberries, pack a snack of sliced apple and blueberries or whip up a healthy apple blueberry crumble using nuts or muesli as the crunchy top.
Consider this surprise saviour
Most people think of zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea for prevention of colds and flu long before they think of probiotics. But research published by the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group shows probiotics can enhance your immune system to help prevent viral respiratory tract infections like the common cold. The pros of probiotics don’t stop there. Another study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that a combination of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei reduced the risk of getting a cold and strengthened the subjects’ immune defences by boosting B-lymphocytes, aka virus-thwarting immune cells. The same study also found, if you do come down with a cold or flu, probiotics tend to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Add probiotics to your daily routine by either eating foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, pickles, miso soup or by taking a daily probiotic supplement.
Make all meals happy
OK, so technically not a cold and flu fighter, but this may boost your bad mood immunity. “That blah feeling we get in the winter is related to a lack of serotonin, which is linked to lack of sunlight,” explains Dr Judith Wurtman, author of the Serotonin Power Diet. As winter progresses and your mood has the habit of going from sunshine to darkness, you can restore its serotonin to summer levels, by eating complex carbs. Wurtman recommends eating a 150-200 calorie carb-based snack in the late afternoon like instant oats, a small sweet potato or wholegrain toast. Good mood food.
If symptoms persist, we recommend consulting your healthcare practitioner.
- Hao Q, Dong BR, Wu T. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD006895. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub3. Accessed 11 May 2023.
- Berggren, A., Lazou Ahrén, I., Larsson, N. et al. Randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled study using new probiotic lactobacilli for strengthening the body immune defence against viral infections. Eur J Nutr 50, 203–210 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-010-0127-6