How to boost your immunity this winter

The presence of fresh fruit and vegetables at hand will not only ecourage you to consume them for their vitamins and fibre, but also serve to heighten the senses by their beautiful colours and texture, perhaps in a beautiful, handmade ceramic bowl.

The most important way to boost your immunity is through regular exercise, sunshine, fresh air and lots of water. This helps the body to detox and reduce the load on the immune system.

A diet with a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and good high biological value protein such as meat, fish and eggs are essential to remain healthy.

Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to provide sufficient Vitamin C in a healthy individual.

The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for Vitamin C is 60mg/day.

Vitamin C stimulates the immune system and increases the production of white blood cells, which the body uses to fight infections.

Citrus fruits are one of the richest sources of Vitamin C. Enjoy eating your oranges, lime, lemon, pomelo, clementines and tangerines.

Strawberries, kiwi, guavas and papaya (contains papin, a strong anti-inflammatory digestive enzyme) are also rich in Vitamin C.

Eating a fruit is far more nutritious than drinking orange juice. Studies have shown that women especially who eat more fruit are at a lower risk of developing cancer.

Red bell peppers and bright red chillies are very rich in Vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are strong anti-oxidants and keep the eyes and skin healthy.

The body stores excess beta-carotene under the skin and changes it into an active form of Vitamin A as needed.

Vitamin A being a very strong anti-infection vitamin especially for respiratory infections.

Here are some ways to keep the flu away:

Broccoli is classified as a superfood and spinach is also very rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and E, which enhances the body’s immune system, best eaten raw in a salad or cooked as little as possible for maximum nutritional benefit. Carrots, pumpkin and butternut are also very rich in beta-carotene.

Garlic contains allicin, a natural antibiotic that helps fight infections.

Ginger is a strong anti-inflammatory that helps relieve sore throats and other inflammatory diseases and nausea. Ginger gives heat and is a relative of capsaicin, which helps reduce chronic pain. Ginger and cinnamon tea are an excellent warm drink for colds and flu.

Honey is rich in immune boosting propolis and echinacea.

Omega 3 fatty acids contained in deep sea fatty fish like salmon, pilchards and sardines are natural strong anti-inflammatory.

Plain white yoghurt contains live and active cultures, which help the immune system fight against diseases.

Green tea is a concentrated source of anti-oxidants namely flavonoids and epigallocatechin gallate or EgCG. It is a rich source of an amino-acid L-theonine which aids the germ fighting compounds in T-cells.

Poultry: there is more to chicken soup than a comfort food, it nourishes the body thereby stimulating and supporting the body and immune system. It is a rich source of Vitamin B6 which the body uses in the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. The stock and broth of boiled chicken bones provides gelatine chondroitin, both an important nutrient for gut healing and immunity.

Sunflower seeds contain phosphorous, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and are rich in Vitamin E , a strong immune boosting anti-oxidant.

Shellfish: zinc is a very important nutrient to stimulate the immune system and promote wound healing. Sources are crab, clam, lobster and mussels.

Vitamin D: a strong immune boosting anti-oxidant, it is well known that in the Western Cape we often have insufficient vitamin D, due to the rainy dark winter days. Also, darker skins may absorb less Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.

Rich food sources are dairy, eggs, cod liver oil, mushrooms, salmon, canned tuna and beef liver.

Keep a watchful eye on your alcohol intake as alcohol may suppress the immunity and a high consumption will increase an individual’s susceptibility to viruses and bacterial infections. A moderate intake is suggested for healthy individuals namely one drink per day for females and a maximum of two alcoholic drinks per day for men.

Get enough sleep, a minimum of 8 hours sleep per day is recommended.

Be social as social isolation may slow the body, lead to stress, supress the immune system and its ability to heal. Practice good hygiene, use bacterial wipes when handling trolleys, socially shaking many people’s hands before eating and keep personal items such as toothbrushes, face sponges safe from contamination.

Amanda I’Ons is a registered dietitian, with a BSc Honours degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, from UCT Medical School.