Food and our immune system – fact or fiction?

Food and our immune system- fact or fiction? No miracle cures BUT can certain foods make any difference you your immune response to coughs and colds? Berries- Berries have been found to have some cough and cold fighting abilities Why? They contain compounds ( known as flav-en-oids) with anti oxidants which are anti inflammatory. Any evidence? Yes- a study in New Zealand showed that adults could be up to 1/3 more protected from the common cold if they consumed flavonoid rich foods including black currants and elderberries. Blackcurrant drinks can also be soothing and comforting ( hot ribena takes me right back to child hood) and a study in Rhinology showed that they also relieved common cold symptoms that affect your throat and give ruby nose Elderberries are particularly studied for flu like symptoms and results from a small number of adults taking elderberry syrup 4x daily found symptom relief 4 days early versus placebo syrup. Ginger- also full of anti inflammatory properties- this super spice can help with dry throats and blocked noses when symptoms start according to a study in the International Journal of Preventative medicine. Best used regularly as a prevention measure, it can also make a tasty and soothing ( if a little spicy) hot drink when symptoms start. Yoghurt- the live bacteria that are part of yoghurts and drinks like kefir can certainly be immune supporting. A study in 2012 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that in a group of students who had a cold, those who took probiotics reduced the number of days of their symptoms and severity of symptoms too. Watch what you pick though- natural or greek style yoghurts have less sugars sweeteners or flavourings added so you can concentrate on getting the good stuff. Seeds and nuts- chock full of zinc, these little guys can be an immune supporting snack, especially if you don’t feel like eating much when you are feeling rubbish. Why? Zinc as a mineral is anti inflammatory and also contains anti oxidants which are good for your immune system- ideally to be chomped on all year round. Dr Clara Russell