We are smack bang in the coldest part of the year. The time of year where you’re cooped indoors with fellow commuters or workmates and one case of the sniffles can rapidly work its way through an entire office. Cold and flu season peaks in August, so we still have a little time to prepare our immunities as best we can.

If we are tired, run down, stressed and are working and/or commuting in high-density areas, we are more prone to catching colds and the dreaded flu,” explains Joshua Gaudry, Food Scientist at Flannerys Organic & Wholefood Market.

It seems that at lower temperatures, our body produces less antiviral immune signals to fight off viruses entering through the airways.

Obviously there’s the yearly flu shot, which I – someone who is definitely not an expert – personally swear by. But how can we naturally give our immune systems a good boost?

Stock up on fruits and vegetables…and hearty foods such as gut- and immune-boosting bone broths,” Joshua suggests.

Bone Broths [are] not only delicious and good for the gut, [they] have a wide amount of immune system benefits too. In particular, the amino acids in chicken bone broth – such as cysteine and glycine – are building blocks for important immunomodulating factors.

Vitamin C and Zinc are important immunity boosters. Citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, broccoli, kiwi fruit, bell peppers and capsicum are a good source of vitamin C and beta carotene. Zinc can be found in pepitas, seafood, cashew nuts and mung beans.

Herbs such as astragalus, Siberian ginseng and reishi mushrooms have been found to boost immunity. Ginger is great for lowering inflammation and supporting illnesses.

Fermented foods like kefir, kimchi or sauerkraut are great because they contain lots of vitamins which help fight bacteria and inflammation. They’re also filled with antioxidants, so they’re an easy way to get a lot of the good stuff into you as well.

And if you’re a little too late to the immunity party and the dreaded cold or flu is already upon you?

Increasing vitamin C intake is the most tried and tested method for decreasing the duration and severity of colds,” says Joshua, “When choosing a vitamin C powder or tablet a good quality C should have bioflavonoids (the higher the better). These will be either rutin or hesperidin as these are cofactors essential for the absorption of vitamin C. They will usually contain zinc as well.

There you go mates, a whole bunch of things to throw into your winter diet. Or, of course, there’s always the mask option.

Image: Parks & Rec