Foods to boost your immune system

In the chilly months when colds and flu are far more common, small changes to your diet can help reduce the risk of getting common winter illnesses.

In the winter months, when colds and flu are more common, it’s worth turning to your kitchen cabinet before your medicine cabinet. From everyday foods that can help you fend the nasties off to foods that’ll help you feel better if you do succumb, read our guide to eating yourself better.

Oranges and lemons

… and grapefruits and limes. Citrus fruits are not only zesty and delicious, but they’re powerhouses of vitamin C to boost your immune system.

Ways to eat more

• Chop oranges into smiley wedges for kids
• Make a very grown-up fruit plate with some finely sliced oranges drizzled with orange flower water.
• Add a squeeze of lemon to cooked green veggies
• Mix one part lemon juice to three parts olive oil for a simple salad dressing


Garlic has been described as nature’s antibiotic. It contains compounds called allion and allicin and has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties.

Garlic has health benefits when it’s cooked, but to get the absolute most from it nutritionally you need to eat it raw. If you – not to mention those around you! – don’t fancy that, you can take supplements.

Ways to eat more

• Add a little minced garlic to mayonnaise to make aioli. Delicious with just about anything, but particularly amazing with chips!
• Roast a whole head of garlic (trust us!) along with your Sunday joint. Let people squeeze the cloves – which will now be mellow and delicious – out onto their plates.
• Don’t forget garlic bread goes down well with just about everyone!


From ancient India and China to Greece and Rome, root ginger has long been prized for its medicinal as well as culinary uses. The pungent root can act as an antihistamine and decongestant, two cold-easing effects. If your virus has left you feeling nauseous, ginger can help alleviate that too.

Ways to eat more

• Finely sliced ginger will add zing to a stir-fry.
• Get supper wrapped up: top a fish fillet with some shredded ginger and spring onion. Drizzle with a little olive oil and wrap in a foil parcel before placing in the oven for approx. 20 mins or until cooked through.
• Ginger tea: chop up some ginger and place into a mug before covering with boiling water. Add honey and leave to brew.


The delicate balance of sugars, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and antibacterial elements found in honey combine to create a compound with multiple benefits.
The traditional cold remedy of hot honey and lemon turns out to have a sound scientific basis, not only because both contain antioxidants, but because honey can coat and soothe an irritated throat, and reduce coughing.

Ways to eat more

• Drizzle over porridge
• Just before serving chicken drumsticks, drizzle with a little honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds

Probiotic yoghurt

Probiotics are live microorganisms (good bacteria) which fight off bad bacteria to boost your immune system.

Ways to eat more

• Add fresh fruit to natural, probiotic yoghurt and whizz in a blender to make a rich but healthy smoothie
• Add finely chopped herbs to natural, probiotic yoghurt and use as a dip or topping for baked potatoes
• Top natural, probiotic yoghurt with fruit (dried or fresh), nuts and a little honey. Makes a great breakfast or a healthy pud


Like all peppers, fresh chillies contain lots of vitamin C and vitamin A. But there’s more to these little fiery fruits than that – they also have pain-relieving properties that will go to work on a headache, while your body’s reaction to the ‘hot’ chemical they contain, capsaicin, makes your nose run and opens up your passageways. Go as hot as you dare for maximum effect!

Ways to eat more

• Why not combine chilli with a good dose of garlic in a warming vegetable curry when you feel a cold coming on?
• Some finely chopped chilli gives a zip to pizza

More tips on winter health

Check out winter health: recharge your batteries