Three ways to boost your immune system this winter

Three ways to boost your immune system this winter

Author: Philippa Thompson

Maintaining a strong immune system to help ward off typical winter illnesses like flu and the common cold has always been important for older people. This year, COVID-19 has placed even greater emphasis on ensuring that we all head into the colder months with a strong immune system.

A healthy balanced diet, packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is key, as is eating regularly throughout the day. Aiming for three meals a day, plus two healthy snacks is a useful rule of thumb.

This article takes a look at three ways you can ensure your diet supports your immune system and helps to keep you healthy this winter.

Eat a Rainbow

Over recent years this has become a popular mantra for nutrition experts and for a very good reason.

In order to ensure that you consume a balanced diet you need to eat a variety of foods containing immune boosting vitamins A, C and E, as well as foods that are high in fibre and low in fat.

  • Foods that are high in Vitamin C are often yellow or orange in colour - although not always. (The distinctly green kiwi is a prime example of a fruit that is extremely high in Vitamin C despite its colour.)
  • Including plenty of dark leafy greens such as cabbage, spinach and broccoli, as well as nuts will boost your intake of Vitamin E.
  • Meanwhile, you can top up your Vitamin A levels by including liver, salmon and mackerel along with some cheese and butter in your meals*.
  • *Foods like cheese, butter and nuts can be high in fats so bear in mind the saying ‘everything in moderation’.

Make healthy food swaps

Cooler temperatures, less daylight and dreary weather means it can be tempting to comfort eat at this time of year. However, that can quickly lead to an unhealthy increase in foods that are high in ‘bad’ fats and offer little nutritional value to your immune system.

To keep a balance while still enjoying some treats, try some of these easy food swaps:

  • Swap salty, fatty crisps for healthier fresh popcorn or unsalted nuts.
  • If you enjoy chocolate, swap milk chocolate for plain chocolate. You’ll increase the antioxidants you consume and generally will need less to satisfy your craving.
  • Swapping coffee for tea, green tea or herbal teas offers positive health benefits and will reduce the risk of dehydration. This can still be a problem in winter and caffeine is a diuretic.
  • Swap cereals like cornflakes for healthier, more filling alternatives like porridge. Porridge is a rich source of soluble fibre and is even more delicious when you add some fruit or honey.
  • Try the occasional meat-free day, using protein sources like beans and pulses instead.

Keep stress under control

Stress isn’t good for your immune system and 2020 has been a stressful year for many people in different ways. Maybe you have been shielding, attempting to go about ‘business as usual’ or are feeling the effects of a year spent in a heightened state of alert, all of which will have resulted in increased stress levels and the harmful effects of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’.

Getting plenty of sleep and taking regular exercise will help to offset the effects of stress and help your immune system to function properly.

If you feel that you are struggling to deal with stress, or stress-related conditions, it is really important to speak to friends, family and your GP or other medical professional in order to get the support you need to stay well.

Healthy eating at The Dower House

At The Dower House, residents enjoy a wide and varied menu with meals that are freshly cooked in our kitchen by our expert team. Resident’s specific dietary requirements are easily catered for, as are medical needs such as the need for softer foods. Our residents often comment that meals at The Dower House are akin to eating in their favourite restaurants - high praise indeed!

If you would like to know more about life at The Dower House, or to arrange a short stay for you or a loved one this winter, please get in touch.

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