Nourish your immune support – it's time for action

September is almost here, schools are back and there is definitely more than a hint of autumn in the air. This year, more than ever we will be acutely aware of the increase in coughs, colds and flus as the seasons change. Now is the time to get healthy and to nourish our immune support.

Statistics show that there are certain risk factors that increase our susceptibility to developing more severe symptoms of the coronavirus. We can’t do much about some of these factors, like our race or our age, but we can take action to get ourselves as healthy as possible.

Making small changes to support your immunity, keep within a healthy weight and manage stress can all play a role in how healthy we feel and how resilient we are to coughs, colds and flus.

Why not set yourself a weekly challenge to change one small thing. Little by little you will make a massive change to the food you eat and that can only have a positive impact on your health and immunity.

Eat real food!!

Pack your shopping trolley full of nutritious, natural foods and you can’t go too far wrong. Forget processed foods and cook from scratch. Processed foods does not just mean ready meals – ready-made sauces, cereals and pre-packed foods are off the list for a healthy diet too.

Fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, chicken, eggs, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and pulses with plenty of herbs and spices should form the basis of your diet.

Having a weekly menu plan is a good idea – it will save you time, money and effort. Find some new recipes and cook in bulk to make things easy.

Eat more than your five a day:

The more fruit and vegetables we can pack into our diet, the better to nourish our immune support. Berries with breakfast, super salads at lunchtime and pack half your plate with veggies at dinner. We know that a colourful diet is a healthy one – the more colour we can get from fruit and vegetables, the more minerals, vitamins and antioxidant nutrients we are packing in.

  • Eat your greens twice a day. Dark green leafy vegetables like rocket, watercress, spinach, broccoli, leeks, pak choi and Savoy cabbage are ideal.
  • A portion of berries every day. The beautiful jewel-like colour of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and strawberries provide us with powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients. Fresh or frozen are both perfect.
  • Orange-coloured fruit and veg like sweet potato, butternut squash, Canteloupe melon and nectarines give us beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor for supporting the respiratory tract and helping to keep mucus membranes healthy.
  • Use fresh or frozen fruit of vegetables to help you get a healthy balance and plenty of variety into your diet.

Quit the sugar habit

Sugar is one of the most detrimental elements in our diet. We know that it can supress the immune system, increase inflammation and make us fat – not to mention the detrimental effect it has on our mood, energy and sleep. Start by making small adjustments – swap to dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa), munch on berries instead of sweeties and ditch your sugary breakfast cereal for eggs first thing.

Keeping an eye on food labels will help you decide what foods to put in your trolley.

Anti-inflammatory fats

We need to eat fat if we want to be healthy. Omega 3 fats from oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout have anti-inflammatory effects. Aim to eat these types of fish a couple of times a week. Omega 6 fats are important too, so keep nuts and seeds to hand for a healthy snack to keep you going. Use olive oil and real butter and ditch the vegetable oil and processed margarines.

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 29 August 2020.