Nutrition: Feed a cold

Ginger, citrus fruit and turmeric offer a vital boost to our immune systems
Ginger, citrus fruit and turmeric offer a vital boost to our immune systems

IF your immune system is working hard to fend off a cough or cold, you might find some help in your kitchen cupboards.

:: Fruit and veg have got to be top of the list, but there are certain ones that I would suggest you prioritise if you have the cold.

:: Berries are packed with vitamin C and important antioxidants that can help support a healthy immune system. Elderberry has been shown to reduce the frequency and duration of colds, although it is more often used as a tincture rather than a food. Blueberries and blackberries are great too. I tend to recommend using frozen berries at this time of the year as they are likely to have a higher nutritional value than the fresh ones with too many food miles to have much nutritional merit.

:: Orange coloured fruit and vegetables like sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, apricots and oranges all contain beta-carotene, a vitamin A pre-cursor. Vitamin A is important for the health of our mucus membranes and respiratory tract, so pack them in.

:: Citrus fruits are a go-to for immunity, but it is more than just the vitamin C content that helps. They are packed with bioflavonoids that can help support our immune systems too. Eat the fruit, rather than drinking the juice for optimal benefits.

:: Garlic is often hailed as a cure-all and has a history of being used in traditional herbal medicine for supporting the immune system. It has been found to have anti-viral and anti-microbial effects and one study found that people who took a garlic supplement between November and February had significantly fewer colds and recovered faster if they picked something up. When using garlic in your cooking it is best to crush it and chop it to expose it to air and help activate the allicin, which is the phytonutrient thought to have most benefits. As allicin is destroyed by cooking at high temperatures, it is best to add your garlic in at the end of cooking, or eat it raw. If you are feeling brave, you could take a raw garlic clove every day.

:: Rosemary is one of the best sources of antioxidants in our diet and is known for its antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

:: Thyme is an ingredient often found in cough mixtures, and can help to loosen mucus in chesty coughs and fight infections.

:: Turmeric and ginger are a right pair for immune support. With anti-inflammatory effects, these spices are easy to add into soups and curries to support your immunity.

:: Probiotic foods like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and live yoghurt all contain beneficial bacterial that support a healthy microbiome. Adding a daily dose of probiotics to your diet is a great way to benefit your immune system.

:: Mushrooms may help to strengthen your immune system and while this benefit is so often credited to oriental mushrooms, it seems that button and white mushrooms have benefits in promoting immune function too. They have been found to have antiviral properties and are an important source of selenium, one of the key nutrients needed to feed a healthy immune system.

There are of course some foods that can deplete our immune system, so if you are fighting off a cold or flu, it is a good idea to keep a check on your intake if high sugar foods, refined and processed junk food and pro-inflammatory foods. Cut them out to feel better sooner.


It could be beneficial to add a couple of carefully chosen nutritional supplements to your fist aid kit to help you get over your cold. Here's what I suggest:

:: Vitamin C - supplementing vitamin C has been found to shorten the duration of the common cold and relieve symptoms including chest pain, fever and chills. It seems the best plan is to take a regular, daily supplement of 500-1,000mg to support immunity and a larger dose of vitamin C if you get a cold, around 3-4g a day to help recovery.

:: Vitamin D - at this time of the year we can be a bit low in vitaminD. It is reached that most adults supplement around 2,000iu a day in the autumn and winter months.

:: Elderberry has lovely benefits for the immune system and may help to shorten the duration of your cold.

:: Zinc - around 15mg of zinc can help feed your immune system and help you feel better sooner.