Top up on these flu-preventing foods and nutrients

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Our immune system is constantly up against it, being regularly bombarded by foreign invaders. At this time of year more people are unwell meaning we are exposed to more cold and flu viruses, and we therefore rely even more on our immune system to help keep things out. Our white blood cells in particular, have to work extremely hard - the moment someone on the tube sneezes next to us they whip in to action helping to engulf and destroy viruses that may have found their way into the body. The immune system requires some important nutrients in order to do this and the great many other important reactions that a healthy immune system relies upon. So if you want to help ward off the bugs this winter and prevent cold and flu as well as getting plenty of rest, it’s a good idea to try and top up on this list of natural foods to help beat the symptoms fast.

What You'll Need

  • Vitamin C-rich foods such as kale, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, peppers, dark fruits and fresh herbs like parsley.
  • Zinc-rich foods like poultry, sunflower seeds, seafood and fish.
  • Vitamin D-rich foods such as oily fish, avocado, mushrooms and oranges.
  • Fibre-rich foods like vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds.

What You'll Do

  • Vitamin C is first on the list. Being essential for white blood cell production as well as a whole host of other immune mechanisms, we need a daily supply of this to prevent levels dwindling. Many studies have shown that getting at least 250mg of vitamin C daily can help to ameliorate symptoms and shorten the duration of colds and flu. Eat plenty of fresh, colourful fruit and veg listed here.
  • Zinc though lesser known is just as important. This helps to support us by promoting the production of antibodies that skilfully remember the details of intruders previously defeated so we can fight them again. Being found in poultry, sunflower seeds, seafood and fish, many zinc rich foods have the added bonus of being high in protein, which is also vital for immunity.
  • Vitamin D is another crucial part of the immune puzzle, which is perhaps why we are more at the mercy of bugs as sunlight begins to dwindle. Vitamin D helps to up-regulate our bacterial defences as well as modulating our immune cells so that we react appropriately to invaders and don’t get carried away. Though eating foods like oily fish, avocado, mushrooms (leave them out in the light to boost levels before you eat) and oranges helps, I always recommend my clients get tested to check whether or not they need to supplement.
  • Gut bacteria are our first line of defence, and supporting them with diet is essential to keep immunity strong. Fibre from all types of fruit and vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts seeds are the best way to do this. I also recommend topping up with fermented foods like kefir or sauerkraut.
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