Warding off colds and flu this winter starts with a healthy diet and a bit of extra TLC in the form of superfoods. Stock up on these five immune boosters.

Your immune system constantly defends you against a myriad of diseases. By eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle, you can keep this delicate system functioning as effectively as possible. And it’s easier than you think.

Research has shown that if you are deficient in certain micronutrients, such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E. Your immune system’s response to an intrusion could be altered.

These five foods have been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system in supporting it to keep you healthy. The best part is, you probably already have them in your kitchen:

1. Garlic
Raw or cooked, depending on how you prefer it, garlic is the golden child of a healthy immune system. Many experts hail garlic as the most natural antioxidant available due to allicin, a compound in the garlic. It works like a natural antibiotic and has been shown to prevent chronic, long-term illnesses. Add it to any vegetable dish or to spice up a warm winter stew.

2. Cinnamon
Perfect for sprinkling over butternut, bananas or smoothies, cinnamon has been shown to contain antimicrobial compounds that inhibit bacteria and viruses. Cinnamon also has a positive effect on how the body uses insulin and may also counter free radicals that can cause chronic inflammation.

3. Avocados
Avocados are filled with essential fatty acids as well as vitamins A and E. Although they’re seasonal, you can generally get them all year around. Some research shows that absorption of two key antioxidants, lycopene and beta-carotene, increased substantially when fresh avocado (or even avocado oil) was added to salad. Mash one up with some lemon juice for guacamole or blend it with a banana and some cacao for a delicious, healthy chocolate mousse.

4. Nuts
Nuts and seeds are high in fibre and magnesium as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E, all of which help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and a healthy digestive system. Almonds and walnuts are believed to be the most beneficial.

5. Berries
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are packed full of antioxidants, more so than any other fruit. Blueberries contain impressive amounts of vitamin C and folate, which have been shown to support a healthy urinary tract, improve memory and vision and even lower cholesterol.

Add them to your morning smoothie, your lunchtime salad or snack on them with some coconut milk as a delicious dessert.


>> Top 11 sources of antioxidants
>> Knock out the flu this Winter