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Eat the rainbow

September marks the end of the summer holidays, back to school and, for some, the return of the regular colds, coughs and sniffles that come with returning to school. It always amazes me just how quickly someone in the class gets a cold and passes the germs around.

With 70% of your immune system residing in your gut then you need to make sure your gut is in tip top health to boost your immune system and help to protect you. Optimal immune function requires a healthy diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables and low in refined fats and sugars and adequate, but not excessive, amounts of protein. Making sure everyone is drinking enough water will also help.

Boosting your immunity
Make sure everyone in the family is eating lots of fruit and vegetables, in a variety of colours. It is all about eating colour. Vegetables don’t just provide you with a range of vitamins such as vitamin C, which is essential for immune health.

They also provide you with phytonutrients, which help to protect you from disease and each variety of vegetables has different phytonutrients. So it’s not just about eating vegetables, but eating a variety. Foods high in vitamin C that helps boost your immunity include kiwi, oranges, red pepper, kale, spinach and broccoli.

Eating lots of vegetables also provides your body with dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is very important to feed our gut bacteria, which are essential for good health.

Low sugar
A high sugar diet supresses your immune system. Sugar is very similar in chemical structure to vitamin C.
So when your immune system needs to fight pathogens it will sometimes grab the sugar molecule rather than the vitamin C.
So instead of fighting the virus or bacteria your immune system struggles and can’t do its job. It is estimated that a blood sugar level of 120 decreases your immune system by 75%.
Sugar really has no place in a healthy diet and fruit should be used instead to sweeten.

Probiotics
Probiotics aren’t just found in a capsule from a health food shop. There are plenty of natural probiotics in your food. The benefit of eating your probiotics in real food over supplements is that you consume lots more strains.

The bacteria in your gut are transient and so you need to keep topping them up. Natural yoghurt is high in Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus and will help maintain a healthy gut. Try to buy natural or Greek yoghurt and sweeten at home with fruit so you can control the sugar content.

You can also get natural probiotics in kefir, which is found in the milk aisle of a supermarket. My children love a small bottle of flavoured kefir as an evening snack or with their breakfast.
Start getting them to eat kefir in a smoothie, such as the over the page. You might also find your children like fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kombucha so have a go at making your own or buying them from a health shop.

Zinc
Zinc is an important mineral that is essential for a healthy immune system. It is also needed for growth and brain development so important throughout childhood.

Zinc rich foods include eggs, salmon, milk, chickpeas, peas, dates and dark chocolate.

Sleep and exercise
Make sure your children are getting enough sleep and fresh air. Both are essential to good health and will help to keep your immune system strong and ready to fight any virus that comes their way.

What to do if you do get a cold?
Garlic can be really helpful in fighting a cold. It’s a powerful antioxidant with antiviral, antimicrobial and antibiotic properties and also helps as a decongestant.

If you’re brave you can try it raw, but try to include in as many different recipes as possible for its preventative as well as healing properties.

Katharine Bright is a Registered Nutritionist with a clinic in Sevenoaks. To book an appointment call her on 07769 636352 or email kat@thehealthboost.co.uk. She is co-founder of The Health Boost (www.thehealthboost.co.uk) – a website dedicated to providing a family friendly solution to healthy eating. For day-to-day healthy inspiration and new recipes follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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