Fighting Colds and Flu this Winter

Little girl wearing leopard print ear muffs and a red duffle coat with fur trim hood

*This is a commissioned post*

Well it’s flipping freezing this morning isn’t it!  Winter is well and truly on the way and with it all the coughs, colds and general lurgy that are part and parcel of the season.  We wrapped up warm this morning with gloves, ear muffs and new winter coats, defending ourselves against the cold air and frost on the school run.

Little girl wearing leopard print ear muffs and a red duffle coat with fur trim hood

For Amy, coughs and colds have been a persistent feature of her first half term of Nursery.  Being at school means she’s mixing with new people and the longer hours means she’s more tired and thus less able to fight the inevitable germ invasion.  Of course being poorly makes her more tired and her immune system weaker, which makes her more susceptible to the bugs and on it goes.  I know it won’t last forever, she will build up her immunity and she will be more able to cope with her new routine but for now she has a stubborn cough and a constant need for a tissue.

As someone who suffers significantly with my asthma, I am also way more susceptible to coughs and colds and when they do hit, they hit hard – sitting heavy in my chest and making life difficult.  With Amy’s perpetual cough and cold this season I know it’s only a matter of time before I succumb to it myself – I find myself questioning every little tickle in my throat, sneeze or headache wondering “Is this it?  Am I going down?!”

Along with being absolutely fastidious about washing my hands as often as possible, one of the easiest ways to help ourselves in the fight against colds and flu this season is to ensure that we are eating a wide variety of foods to make certain we get enough vitamins and key nutrients in our diets meaning that our immune system is ready for battle!

Of course well know that we need to eat our “five a day” and that the more colour on our plate, the better it is for us but when it comes to helping your immune system to fight off colds and flu, Registered Dietitian Sian Porter suggests increasing intake of the following five vitamins and minerals:

1. Vitamin C

Source: orange juice

Sian says: “Vitamin C contributes to the healthy function of the immune system.  A daily 150ml glass of pure orange juice count as one of your five-a-day and contains the vitamin C you need daily.

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.”

2. Iron

Source: spinach

Sian says: “When it comes to filling your plate, it’s no myth that green is great! Winter greens such as spinach are rich in essential nutrients including iron and served alongside a winter warming bean stew this makes perfect eating for cough and cold season.”

3. Zinc

Source: almonds

Sian 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 high good source of zinc which contributes to the healthy function of the immune system.”

4. Selenium

Source: Mushrooms

Sian says: “Like vitamin C, selenium is an important antioxidant that has a role in normal immune function. Mushrooms are a handy winter standby to give meals taste and texture, but they’re also a source of selenium.”2

5. Beta-carotene

Source: Carrots

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

Carrots and spinach are mainstays in our diet as Dave puts one or the other in pretty much everything he cooks – Ok I’m exaggerating but we do eat a lot of carrots and spinach.  Mushrooms are a little trickier as I just can’t stand them – I’ve never been able to eat them.

Since reading Sian’s advice, I’ve added a glass of orange juice to our breakfast routine.  Obviously I know that vitamin C is important but I tend to just buy orange juice when one of us has already got a cold rather than using it in the fight against getting the lurgy in the first place!

Little girl drinking orange juice for breakfast

Did you know . . . 

· A daily 150ml glass of orange juice (can be fresh or from concentrate, nutritionally they are exactly the same) provides all the vitamin C you need for the whole day

· Pure orange juice is also a source of the B-vitamin folate

· This makes orange juice a good choice this time of year as both vitamin C and folate contribute to the healthy function of the immune system

· One 150ml portion also counts as one of your five-a-day

For more information on the benefits of drinking pure fruit juice visit:

Right, I’m off for a glass of orange juice!  If you’ve got any top tips for fending off colds and flu this season, I’d love to know!

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