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Immune-boosting foods

Reviewed by our expert panel
Immune-boosting foods

There's no direct evidence that getting a cold or flu is related to what we eat. Nutrition is, however, key to immune responses and our ability to combat infection.

Colds and flu (influenza) are respiratory tract infections caused by viruses.

Colds tend to come on slowly over a couple days – a scratchy throat, a cough, some sneezing, a stuffy nose, mild fatigue, maybe a dull headache.

The flu usually hits harder and faster, bringing on cold-like symptoms plus high fever, chills and sweats, body aches, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, a sore throat and possibly diarrhoea and vomiting.

There are hundreds of viruses linked to the common cold, making it hard to cure. Flu viruses are far fewer which is why vaccines now exist to help prevent catching them.

Besides practicing proper hygiene, good stress management, regular, moderate exercise and eating well are the best ways to keep the immune system strong and sickness at bay.

  • Kiwifruit, tomatoes, red and orange vegetables, eg carrots, capsicum, providing vitamin C and the antioxidants ß-carotene and lycopene

  • Citrus fruit, eg oranges and lemons, providing ß-carotene and vitamin C

  • Lean meat and seafood, eg oysters, rich sources of easily-used zinc and iron

  • Breakfast cereals and bread for vitamin E and zinc

  • Milk for zinc

  • Nuts, seeds and seed/vegetable oils for vitamin E and zinc

First published: May 2007

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