Spice up your diet to ward off nasty winter viruses

WITH the weather swinging as wildly as Dita von Teese’s tassles, the chances are the mild weather of the last few days will be replaced by dead-of-winter temperatures any minute now. Such sudden changes are a nightmare for the immune system – and there’s not much worse than a Mexican wave of sniffling and spluttering making its way through the office towards you. Well, the good news is you can start priming your defences now, and preserve your well-being by taking some precautions. With a combination of the right exercise and eating certain foods you will feel noticeably better and will prepare your body against the nasty colds and flus that come with the inevitable shock of wintry weather.

In colder weather, it’s natural for us to start craving fats and sugar. “We must be careful not to plough sugar into our bodies as it dampens immunity by lowering the body’s white blood cell count, which reduces ability to fight infection,” says nutritional therapist and yoga teacher Charlotte Watts (www.de-stressyourlife.com). Good foods to eat are avocados, oily fish, free range meats, olive oil, and eggs, which also help our livers deal with fat. The body relies on antioxidants to support immunity so Charlotte recommends eating healthy curries with spices such as turmeric and chilli. Green and spicy teas have good antioxidants, increase circulation and your metabolism.

With fruit and veg, it’s best to eat as much as you can. “People are often misled about fruit juice, and fool themselves into thinking they get their hit of fruit. Fruit juice is packed with sugar. It’s better to eat an actual orange instead of drinking the juice, and there’s the added benefit that are lots of antioxidants to be found in the pith.”

Charlotte also suggests eating seasonal dark rich greens, such as broccoli, sprouts and kale, and cavolo nero, which is rich in carotenoids – a fat soluble antioxidant.

According to personal trainer Matt Roberts (www.mattroberts.co.uk), if you’re already an exercising gym bunny, the key to keeping healthy is to maintain your normal routine. If you’re feeling slightly lethargic or the a cold coming, tone down your routine a little, and keep the sustained pace of cardio work to a low level. “What you don’t want to do is exhaust yourself and leave your immune system exposed to illnesses by overdoing it,” says Matt.

If you actually get a cold, Matt recommends waiting a day or two for it to go away. However, if you just get a passing sniffle, reduce the intensity of your exercise by 15-20 per cent, and keep it at a moderate and controlled level. The important thing is that you are able to breathe comfortably.

Drink plenty of water, and eat within half an hour of exercising. If you carry out more intensive exercise there will be more phlegm build up and you will find it hard to breathe.


Onions and garlic are part of the allium family. Coming into winter, they are good for helping the body make vitamin D.

Nutritional therapist Charlotte Watts recommends eating as much colour as possible. The seasonal dark green vegetables; cavolo nero, broccoli and cauliflower are great for detoxifying the body.

These fruits are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Personal trainer Matt Roberts is packing a lot of these at the moment.

Curries contain good antioxidant spices such as turmeric and chilli. Spicy tea with ingredients such as ginger are great for improving circulation.