The immune system needs a cocktail of around 20 different micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals) daily for protection against viral threat. Whilst most of these micronutrients are present in a good balanced diet, there are some in particular that can seriously boost our defences during the cold harsh reality that is winter!

Plate of melons
Plate of melons

Here’s how – shopping basket essentials:

  •  Watermelon is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc and selenium which are all well-documented as top grade immune boosters. Include it in smoothies (seeds included) or have a mix of melon slices as a snack.
  • Berries provide a wealth of protective plant chemicals known as flavonoids. Top your breakfast cereal or porridge with a selection of berries, the darker the colour, the richer they are in flavonoids.
  • Peppers (red, yellow, orange, green) are super-rich in vitamin C which is an extremely powerful antioxidant which not only protects us against heart disease, circulatory problems and some cancers but has also been shown to stimulate the production and function of white blood cells that attack viruses. Eat them raw in salads or roast them with other vegetables.
  • Wheatgerm is a great source of vitamin E. Studies show that good levels of vitamin E lower the risk of contracting upper respiratory tract infections, especially the common cold. Sprinkle wheatgerm flakes onto salads or breakfast, add to savoury dishes or blend with fruit and vegetable juices for a tasty smoothie.
  • Watercress provides high levels of plant chemicals known as glucosinolates which give it its unique peppery flavour and in scientific studies have been shown to increase the body’s potential to resist attack from disease-causing agents. Include it in soups, smoothies and salads.
  • Red chillies are rich in the compound, capsaicin which gives them their ‘heat’ and has been shown to significantly enhance immune status. Great in curries, Thai dishes, stews and stir fries either fresh, dried or as Tabasco sauce.
  • Celery is not only extremely hydrating but is also a great source of fibre which helps the efficient and healthy digestion of essential nutrients and elimination of immune-impairing toxins. Eat it raw or fill a few sticks with nut butter for a filling snack and benefit from the addition of the protective fats and protein from the butter.
  • What to limit or avoid: Anything that creates stress within the body (too much sugar, too few vegetables, too much or too little exercise, a diet rich in processed foods and chemically-altered fats, lack of sleep, poor digestion, ongoing medication) affects the production and efficiency of neutrophils (white blood cells) which play a crucial role in our defence against disease. A strong immune system depends on the body being able to put up a strong defence.
Berry selection
Berry selection

By including the above ingredients in your diet will help you boost your immune system and avoid colds and flus this winter season.


About the Author

For more information about nutritionist and author Fiona Kirk, visit:




Be Sociable, Share!