Winter is coming…protect yourself with 4 key nutrients to ward off a cold

Winter is nearly upon us and with it comes the dreaded and highly contagious cold and flu. But there’s still hope for a healthier you even during the coldest parts of this season. Simple lifestyle changes including adequate sleep, washing your hands regularly and eating a healthy diet are the key ingredients to protecting yourself from a cold.

Below are 4 cold-fighting nutrients that you should include in your everyday diet to provide you with long-lasting protection from winter.


Studies show that adequate doses of zinc can reduce the length of a cold by 1-2 days. Foods that are naturally high in zinc include:

  • lean meats (especially red meat)
  • legumes and beans
  • fish
  • nuts and seeds.

Comfort foods such as spaghetti bolognese, shepherd’s pie or chilli con carne are delicious zinc-rich foods that are freezer friendly for those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking.

Vitamin C

Dubbed the go-to nutrient for preventing the onset of a cold, Vitamin C is often consumed when we suspect a cold is coming. As it has little to no effect on fighting off a cold, you should ensure that you consume plenty of foods that are high in vitamin C, including:

  • capsicum (especially red capsicum)
  • sweet potato
  • green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and Asian greens
  • kiwi fruit
  • berries.

Try a sweet potato and roasted capsicum soup which is not only high in vitamin C but will keep you warm on a cold night. Berries make a great snack while you’re at work and they’re nutritious fresh or frozen.

Vitamin D

With the winter season lacking our greatest source of vitamin D, the sun, it’s important to look to other sources to ensure that we have a sufficient amount of this bug-killing vitamin.

Vitamin D works as an anti-mircobial that kills the nasty bugs living in our respiratory system so getting enough vitamin D into your diet is a great way to protect you from a cold. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include:

  • eggs (especially the egg yolk)
  • oily fish including salmon, tuna and sardines
  • mushroom especially those dark in dark in colour.

Start your day with a mushroom omelette that is rich in Vitamin D and protein or soak in the winter sunshine by getting active and going for a lunchtime walk with a friend.

Vitamin E

As a double threat against nasty ailments, it’s no wonder vitamin E is so popular. Not only does it protect us from skin conditions such as dry skin and eczema, this antioxidant vitamin plays a key role in our immune system by protecting our cells from damage especially to our upper respiratory tract where the common cold calls home. Foods naturally high in vitamin E include:

  • plant-based oils
  • nuts and nut butters
  • avocado
  • oily fish such as salmon.

Salmon is a versatile fish with great recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner whilst smashed avocado on toast is a popular breakfast trend. Mix it together for a delicious and nutritious way to start your day, adding goat’s cheese and capers for extra taste. Fish for breakfast not your style? Try salmon and avocado salad for lunch with homemade dressing using a quality plant-based oil such as extra virgin olive oil. If you prefer salmon steaks for dinner then try oven-baked salmon, roasted vegetables and steamed greens.

You may decide that taking a vitamin supplement will work well with your busy lifestyle but supplements that are formulated to improve your immune system may have unfavourable side effects especially if you are taking other medication.  It’s important to get advice from a qualified professional like your doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplements.