Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is one of the keys to remaining fit and many of the delicious foods we eat can actually help to strengthen your immune system!

If you are hoping to avoid a bout of the flu or an early summer cold now that the warmer weather is on its way, you could actually up your intake of the following foods to boost your immunity and hopefully avoid some of the nasty bugs which always seem to hang around at this time of the year…

Citrus fruits – Vitamin C is thought to help with the production of white blood cells, which are the key to fighting infection. Your body cannot produce or store Vitamin C, so a daily orange, grapefruit or a glass of fresh juice will give you that much-needed dose.

Dark Berries – These fruits are loaded with nutrients called antioxidants which help to fight inflammation. Acai, Elderberry, Cranberries and Blueberries are all good examples of the darker berries.

Watermelon – When a Watermelon is ripe it contains antioxidants called glutathione which strengthens the immune system and helps to fight infection.

Pomegranate Juice – The ancient Egyptians used to use this fruit to treat infections. It could help your body fight bacteria and several kinds of viruses, including the flu.

Sunflower seeds – Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients including phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin B-6. They’re also incredibly high in vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant. Other foods with high amounts of vitamin E include avocados and leafy greens.

Nuts – Almonds, Peanuts and Hazelnuts are all high in vitamin E.

Spinach and Kale – Dark leafy greens are full of nutrients, such as folate, which helps your body to generate new cells and repair DNA, antioxidants such as vitamin C and lots of Fibre. Eat raw or lightly cooked to get the most benefit.

Broccoli – Contains vitamins A and C and the antioxidant Glutathione.

Sweet Potato – Like carrots, sweet potatoes contain Beta-Carotene. This turns into Vitamin A in your body and can help to bolster the immune system. It is also thought to also improve the ageing process.

Button Mushrooms – These provide the mineral Selenium and the B Vitamins Riboflavin and Niacin. If you’re low on selenium you may suffer from a more severe strain of flu. Riboflavin and Niacin help to build a healthy immune system.

Garlic – Raw garlic can help beat skin infections thanks to its ability to fight bacteria, viruses and fungal infections. You need to use real garlic and not garlic powder to gain the benefits.

Ginger – Ginger can help to ease nausea and vomiting. It is also a good source of antioxidants. Add ginger to stir-fries or steep it in hot water to make tea.

Turmeric – A bright yellow bitter spice which has been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. It also contains high concentrations of Curcumin, giving Turmeric its very distinctive colour, which can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage.

Miso – This is a traditional Japanese seasoning which is made from fermented soybeans. It is usually found in a paste form which can be added to soups and sauces. It contains probiotics which are the good bacteria found in yoghurt, some fermented foods and in your gut.

Tea – White, green or black tea contains Polyphenols and Flavonoids. These antioxidants destroy cell-damaging free radicals.

Live or Greek Yogurt – Probiotics are found in yoghurt and other fermented products. Check the labels to find ones that say ‘live and active’ cultures. Some have added Vitamin D. People with low Vitamin D levels may be more susceptible to colds or the flu. 

Oats and Barley – These grains contain beta-glucan, which is a type of fibre with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities stronger than Echinacea. They boost immunity, speed up wound healing, and can help antibiotics to work more effectively.

Shellfish – Oysters, Lobsters, Crabs, and Clams contain Zinc, which appears to have some virus-fighting power and Selenium which helps white blood cells produce Cytokines. These are proteins which help to clear flu viruses out of the body.

Oily Fish – Salmon, Mackerel and Herring are rich in Omega-3 fats. These help to reduce inflammation which in turn increases airflow and protects the lungs from colds and respiratory infections.

Poultry – Chicken and turkey are high in Vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 helps in the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains Gelatine, Chondroitin and other nutrients which are good for helping to heal the gut.

So there we have a nice round up of twenty immune-boosting foods, which are all readily available and will help you to maintain peak health as we head into the wonderful summer months.