When you have flu, often the last thing you feel like doing is eating or putting serious thought into meal planning. Don’t you wish there was one food combination you could eat that would magically repel cold germs and flu viruses?

Unfortunately, given the complexity of our immune system, there isn’t. But, eating a healthy, balanced diet is the best thing you can do to build up your immunity. Here are some ideas to help with that:

1. Take a multivitamin supplement during stressed times

If you have a slight deficiency of a particular nutrient, especially the B vitamins, A, C, E, selenium, iron, and zinc — your immune system’s function could be impaired. So, if you are stressed, busy and your diet is a little compromised as a result, ask your pharmacist or doctor to recommend a multivitamin with approximately 100% RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) of the vitamins and minerals listed.

2. Make time for tea

Green tea is a rich source of a type of antioxidant called catechin, and preliminary research has found that specific catechin — epigallocatechin gallate (egcg) — may give the tea immune-fighting abilities. Swap at least one cup of coffee every day for a cup of green tea. To derive the optimal amounts of catechins from your tea, let the bag steep for at least three minutes in hot water.

3. Maintain a proper energy balance

Considerable evidence shows crash dieting, anorexia, or nutrient deficiencies increase a person’s susceptibility to infections. Plan for three smaller meals a day with nutritious snacks in between to help control your appetite and boost your metabolism.

4. Regular exercise can help

Studies confirm that people who exercise regularly are far less likely to develop colds and flu, compared to those who rarely exercise. As with diet, moderation is essential. Regularly exercising to the point of exhaustion can boost the body’s production of hormones that can temporarily suppress immune function.
Increase your physical activity to include at least 30 minutes a day, five days of the week. This can be as simple as a brisk walk or stretching at home. If you walk 10 000 steps in a day or burn 300 calories in one exercise session, we will reward you!

5. Choose lean protein

The amino acids that are found in protein form the building blocks of all the body’s cells — including the cells that power your immune system. Remember it’s the quality of protein that counts for good health. To avoid proteins with saturated fat, choose lean proteins such as low-fat dairy products, fresh, frozen and canned fish, skinless chicken, meat trimmed of fat, eggs, lentils, beans, and soya products.

You might also want to see these three winter soup recipes to keep the chill at bay.

Pick n Pay is committed to promoting health and wellbeing among South Africans and employs the services of a registered dietitian to provide food and nutrition-related advice to the public. For your nutrition and health-related queries, contact [email protected] or toll-free on 0800 11 22 88.