Ask The Nutritionist: Immune boosting food

Q. Hi Naomi, the weather is starting to change and I find myself getting really sluggish and tired. Why is this, and what should I eat to help me NOT to get the horrible cold I got this time last year??!! Sandra Hagen

A. Hi Sandra, I know what you mean it can really be confusing to work out what to wear every day!

You tend to find yourself getting quite sluggish at this time of year. More time is spent indoors, the central heating goes on, and you generally become less active. Without the sunshine it is easy to forget to diligently drink that 1.5 litres of water; and instead of salads for lunch, comfort food becomes a much more tempting option! The combination of all of this puts stress on your body, and more than ever you need to give it some much needed looking after.

My main piece of advice is to boost your diet with nutrient-rich, immune-boosting foods to get your immune system in top condition and ready to fight all the potential viruses it will have to encounter (think packed tubes/buses, air conditioning, cold-ridden offices...).

I recommend these 7 top immune-boosting foods and supplements. Try and get them into your diet daily:

* Almonds- a small handful provides you 50% of your daily vitamin E. A powerful anti-oxidant that helps your body to fight infection.
* Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach) - these are nutrient powerhouses, packed full of disease-fighting vitamin C and zinc. Ideally, eat raw; otherwise lightly steam, to preserve their full nutrient value.
* Garlic- research shows it's a powerful antiviral and antibacterial. Peel, chop and leave for around 15 minutes before cooking to activate full immune-boosting enzymes.
* Ginger- SO many therapeutic properties including being an antioxidant and an anti- inflammatory. Steep a thumb-sized piece of ginger in hot water with a slice of lemon to start the day (you can use honey to sweeten if you need to).
* Oats- contain beta-glucan, which research has shown to be even more potent than Echinacea. Soak oats (in water or soya/nut milk) for at least an hour before eating for optimal nutrient absorption.
* Probiotic- a good quality probiotic supplement daily is an absolute must to help keep your levels of 'good' disease-fighting bacteria high. Alongside this increase your intake of prebiotic foods (these are foods that the good bacteria feeds off). Good sources include onions, bananas, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic and beans.
* Vitamin D- the sunshine vitamin and the ultimate immune-booster! Now that sunshine is going to become a rarer occurrence, take this as a supplement (look for it in the D3 form).

Oh, and don't forget to drink your water! Take care and please let me know if you have any other questions.n
Naomi