Sarah Di Lorenzo: Eat and drink your way to a stronger immune system and take a swing at the flu this winter

Sarah Di Lorenzo Nutritionist
The Nightly
juices, smoothies, vegetables
juices, smoothies, vegetables Credit: silviarita/Pixabay (user silviarita)

Now is the time of year many of us get sick from the flu and we can now add COVID and RSV to the list.

When it comes to taking care of our immune systems many think of a hot bowl of chicken soup and some vitamin C will suffice. But it’s much more than that.

Immune health is about a healthy balance. Our immune system never rests.

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When it comes to beverages, drinking water is something many people forget about. As a practitioner the majority of people I see barely get enough water. Water keeps the body hydrated and can help keep the mucosal lining - that usually thickens when we are sick- thin. Avoid soft drinks, energy drinks and minimise alcohol.

The worst foods are the ones that cause inflammation and impair immune function. These include salty, sugary and fried foods; refined carbohydrates; artificial sweeteners; processed and fast foods.

Good nutrition is essential for good immunity. The diet needs to be nutrient-dense with a focus on real whole foods. Think fresh fruit and vegetables, snacking on nuts and seeds. Foods need to be rich in antioxidants, lower inflammation and rich in vitamins and minerals in particular zinc, iron, vitamins D and C.

Vitamin C improves our white blood cells. Foods such as kiwi fruit, capsicum, strawberries and citrus are excellent sources of vitamin C. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for its immune-boosting properties and this is because of a compound it contains called allicin.

As for broccoli it really is a superfood as it is rich in vitamins A, C and E as well as fibre and antioxidants. Ginger is excellent for decreasing inflammation and can relieve nausea.

Spinach is much like broccoli for immune-boosting properties. Yoghurt is great for gut health just be sure to get a good quality Greek yoghurt and you can sweeten it with honey.

Snacking on almonds will give you some vitamin E and turmeric is one of the best spices you can add to soups or stews to lower inflammation. As for chicken that we love so much in chicken soup, it’s a good source of the vitamin B6 we need for new and healthy red blood cells, and the chicken stock contains gelatin that supports gut health.

Boosting immunity means consistently with eating well, regularly exercising, getting enough sleep, managing stress, limiting alcohol and drinking more water. It should be thought of more as a way of life.

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