Many foods thought to enhance our natural defences, such as orange juice and turmeric, don’t live up to the hype. Instead, the key to a healthy immune system lies in nurturing your gut microbiome
IT IS that time of year again. As the cold and flu season hits the northern hemisphere on top of the ongoing ravages of covid-19, many of us reach for something to give our body’s defences a helping hand. There is no shortage of foods and drinks that claim to be able to help. Supermarket shelves are heaving with “immunity support” juices, yogurts and spice-infused teas. Comforting, yes, but can these foods really help stave off contagion?
The impact of diet on our natural defences is a topic rife with claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny, but we are finally developing a clearer picture of the powerful influence that food can have on our immunity. The surprising truth is that focusing on particular products or ingredients could be leading you down the wrong path. In fact, an immune “boost” might be the last thing you need. Here is a guide to the foods you really should be eating to keep your immune system on top form.
The idea that certain foods can help us when we are ill goes back a long way. Think chicken soup or a drink of hot honey and lemon. Many different plants and plant products, such as spinach, blueberries, garlic, broccoli, cabbage and turmeric, have immune-boosting reputations. In recent years, new concoctions to supposedly help our immune health have been developed at a furious pace. In 2020, nearly 2 per cent of new foods and drinks sold globally made some claim about links to immunity, from “breakfast on the go” smoothies and probiotic yogurts to fermented drinks, such as kefir and kombucha, and so-called functional shots: juices made from …