Eat yourself healthy

The right diet can help to protect us from colds and bugs. Find out how to eat to boost your immunity.

Midwinter is traditionally the time for feasting; enjoyed, all too often, to a counterpoint of coughs and sneezes. And seasonal flu often peaks in the final week of the year.

Might there be a connection, then, between the feasts of the winter solstice and the desire to protect against the infections it brings? In the days before antibiotics and flu vaccines, avoiding infections could have been life-preserving. And it is certainly true that the immune system can be fortified by diet.

Serious malnutrition depresses immune function, says Professor Philip Calder, of Southampton University, one of Britain’s leading experts on diet and immunity. “It’s clear that people who are malnourished or suffer nutrient deficiencies have impaired immunity and increased suceptibility to infection,” he says. “If the malnutrition is reversed, the immune system returns to more like normal.”

Last month Professor Calder was awarded the prestigious Nutricia International Award, by the charity the Nutricia Research Foundation, for his pioneering research into nutritional immunology or, put more simply, how diet affects our immune system.

So how much does what we eat affect our response to winter bugs? Quite a lot, according to Professor Calder. “Vitamins and minerals are essential for the immune system, which is particularly sensitive to deficiencies,” he says. In the past few years his work has revealed that the key dietary ingredients for boosting the immune system are zinc, selenium, vitamin D, and the long-chain fatty acids known as omega3s and 6s.

Source - Times

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