Winter seems to be the time of year for sniffles, sneezes and sickness so it should also be the season for boosting immune systems.
While it’s not necessarily the case that more bugs prey on people in the colder months, it can certainly seem that way so regular doses of healthy foods are a sensible preventative measure.
Lee-on-the-Solent nutritionist Rachel Jessey says: ‘There is no definitive scientific evidence to say that consuming a single nutrient can prevent things but if you’re looking at boosting immunity, then eating a balanced diet low in processed foods is certainly a help.
‘The problem is that at this time of year people want to eat comfort foods. I always say that’s okay, you should have some of the things you are craving. But I advise people to employ the 20-80 rule. Twenty per cent of you diet is foods that you enjoy, but 80 per cent should be whole grain, fresh fruits and veg, oily fish, lean meat, low fat dairy and nuts and pulses.’
Rachel, who runs consultancy BeNourished, says Vitamin D is a great immunity booster. The problem? Our main source is sunlight which at the moment is in short supply.
‘I recommend that when we do get a bit of sun in the winter, people try to get out in it, even just for five or 10 minutes,’ she says.
There are plenty of foods which contain vitamin D – including eggs, cheese, milk, sardines, salmon, tuna and sunflower seeds – but Rachel says an awful lot needs to be consumed and topping up with sunshine is a necessary measure.
Other immunity-boosting nutrients include zinc (found in fresh oysters, red meat, egg yolk, nuts and seeds) and vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, chillies, kale and Brussels sprouts).
Rachel has a diploma in the subject and is studying for a nutrition science degree. She works with clients on a one-to-one basis and runs a weight loss group. She has also been involved in work with children who have specific conditions, including autism and ADHD.
‘There is a lot dietary-wise you can do to support people with these conditions, a lot of people don’t realise,’ she says.
And she says while good nutrition can’t cure physical illnesses it can certainly be a great help and a good preventative measure.