Wednesday 8 November 2017

Top Foods for Keeping Winter Coughs and Colds at Bay

We're at that rotten time of year again when the weather can't seem to make its mind up and we hover between warm and freezing days. And whilst it's lovely to cling on to the warmer weather the constant swapping between hot and cold always seems to play havoc with peoples health and even the chief executive of NHS England is warning that Britain could be facing a possible flu epidemic this year.

It's really important therefore that we are taking simple measures to stay well. It can be a costly business to have to turn to cold and flu remedies from the pharmacy but with a few preventative measures you hopefully won't need to, and even if a cough or cold does rear its ugly head then there are some very effective natural remedies available from health food stores too.

Eat a Wide Variety of Foods

One of the easiest ways to stay well is to ensure you are eating a wide variety of foods to give you enough vitamins and other key nutrients, this helps to ensure that your immune system stays fighting fit. Some of the key vitamins and nutrients your want to ensure your body is getting are -

Vitamin C - If you drink a 150ml glass of orange juice per day (can be fresh or from concentrate, nutritionally they are exactly the same), this can be counted as one of your five-a-day and it gives the full daily quota of vitamin C that your body needs. Sian Porter, Registered Dietitian says “Conveniently, pure orange juice is also a source of the B-vitamin folate, needed for white blood cells (that protect the body against infectious disease) to rapidly reproduce.” So this small, easy to drink and delicious glass of orange juice is a real winner.

Iron - If you start to feel tired and worn out then your iron levels might be low and you should be eating more leafy green vegetables like spinach, red meat, liver, beans and pulses, fortified breakfast cereals and sardine. Oh and I bet you didn't know that raisins and pistachios are also a great source of iron, so it doesn't have to be unpleasant to get your recommended quota.

Zinc - Zinc is really important for a healthy immune system and whilst it can be hard to detect a deficiency, you'll certainly have a good idea if you keep getting infections. Sian Porter says: “When winter creeps in, it’s tempting to snack on comfort foods like biscuits and chocolate but if you snack on a handful (about 28g) of nuts like almonds, they are a good source of zinc.”

Super Foods Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Selenium - If I'm honest I hadn't even heard of selenium before and only a small amount is needed each day but nevertheless it plays a key role in your metabolism and also has excellent antioxidant properties. Mushrooms are a really good source and are of course fantastic to throw into your winter casserole.

Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A) - Sian says: “As well the part of our immune system known as ‘innate immunity’, the body also has processes in place called ‘adaptive immunity’ which is when the body recognises a virus it has encountered before and initiates a response. Vitamin A (the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A) is needed for the development of cells which carry out this response. Adding veg rich in beta-carotene like carrots and red peppers will brighten up your winter dishes and boost your bet-carotene.”

Vitamin D - Of course with less sunlight and exposure to the sun during the winter months it is even more important than ever that we consume enough vitamin D, but the good news is that there are plenty of healthy natural food sources of vitamin D, like salmon, sardines, herrings and tuna. As well as foods fortified with it like bread and breakfast cereals.

Vitamin B12 - Most B vitamins are easily found in a balanced diet but Vitamin B12 can be a different story. It helps your body produce DNA and red blood cells, supports your immune system, and encourages healthy nerve function and it is found naturally only in animal sources. Foods to eat that are high in vitamin B12 are fish like salmon, trout and tuna, red meat and diary produce.


As well as the foods mentioned above there are some fabulous foods with amazing healing properties that it is wise to include in your regular diet too.

Ginger - Ginger can be consumed raw, cooked into curries and soups or ground as powder, it has been used for centuries and there is all sorts of claims and evidence to suggest that it can help aid digestion, ease pain and fight the common cold and flu.

Bee on Manuka Flower image courtesy of Shutterstock

Manuka Honey - This very special honey is produced in New Zealand by the bees that pollinate the manuka bush. There are many documented benefits such as healing sore throats and easing digestive problems.

Quinoa - This super grain is similar to couscous in many ways but it is the only grain to have all nine essential amino acids that our bodies can't produce themselves (1) and it is super packed with protein too.

To be honest nature is an amazing provider of all we need and as long as you are filling your plate with a whole rainbow of coloured foods you probably won't go far wrong. Steer clear of of all those processed and pre-packaged foods and take time to enjoy eating well to feed your body. And yes, this is me preaching to myself as I really need to head this advice.


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