Cara Cunningham, MINDI, Community Dietitian
The Cardiff Common Cold centre advises that the only way to avoid catching a cold is to become a hermit. But as most of us do not want to lock ourselves away, we have to make sure that our diets boost our immunity, making it harder for the cold virus to strike us.
The unfortunate news is that Irish adults can expect to suffer from two to four colds each year, with children being affected by three to eight colds yearly. A cold is an infection of the nose and upper airways that is caused by a virus. Colds are fairly unavoidable, but what you eat can make your body more able to fight off the virus and lessen your symptoms.
Start each day with a healthy breakfast. Porridge is a great choice as it will keep you going for the whole morning. It also gives your body the fuel it needs to recover from the overnight fast and gives your immune system the energy it needs to fight infection.
There is a certain amount of evidence to say that while taking vitamin C may not prevent a cold, it can shorten the duration and severity of the symptoms. One of the best sources of vitamin C is fresh fruit – a good rule of thumb is that the more brightly coloured the fruit, the more vitamin C is in it.
Zinc-rich foods also help boost your immune system. These include lean red meat, fish, chicken, wholegrain cereals, legumes, dairy products and nuts. Aim to include these regularly in your diet. If you are worried about your weight, choose low fat varieties.
Chances are that we will all get a cold a few times each winter and if you are unlucky the best advice is to drink plenty of fluids, keep warm, have plenty of fruit and include some zinc rich foods.
It is worth remembering that antibiotics cannot treat infections caused by viruses like colds and the flu. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed might mean that they won’t work when you really need them.