‘Tis the season for feeling sick. Every year, adults suffer from an average of two to three colds per year and an estimated 5-20% of North Americans come down with the flu, typically between the months of October and March.

It’s no surpise that what we eat plays a key role in our immune health. Numerous foods have nutrients that contain anti-inflammatory and healing properties, but we don’t always know if we can get enough of these nutrients through the food we eat or if we need to supplement to get that benefit and prevent sickness. I’m here to shed some light on this today, as I advise you when it is really needed to supplement!

If you’d rather see this info in video format, you can find my segment with Global Morning Show, Toronto here.

  1. Featured Food: Garlic
    Featured Nutrient: Allicin

    The allicin is the active component in garlic and contains antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Garlic also helps promote healthy gut flora, which rids the body of toxins, bacteria and viruses. One study found that a high dose (180mg) of allicin extract (a typical garlic clove has 5-9mg of allicin) reduced the number of colds and duration of cold symptoms in the study participants. However, not much is known about the safety of high-doses of allicin and more research is needed.

    To Supplement or Eat Real Food?

    Eat real food.
    The active components in garlic are more bioavailable when you eat real garlic vs in supplement form. Plus you get the added benefit of garlics delicious taste!


  2. Featured Food: Sweet Potato
    Featured Nutrient: Vitamin A

    Vitamin A plays a key role in our immune system and maintaining the health of our mucosal surfaces. That includes the inside of your nose and your gastrointestinal tract as well as as your skin. You might not think of your skin as part of your immune system but it keeps infections from entering your body – it’s your first line of defence! Keeping your mucus membranes healthy is key to keeping infections at bay.

    To Supplement or Eat Real Food?
    Eat real food.
    medium sweet potato contains over two times the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A which comes from the beta-carotene.


  3. Featured Food: Turmeric
    Featured Nutrient: Curcumin

    Turmeric is a spice that is a rich yellow powder often used in curry dishes. It is high in anti-oxidants and a natural anti-inflammatory that reduces inflammation that can lead to chronic disease. It has been shown that people who consume turmeric are less susceptible to colds, coughs and congestion.

    To Supplement or Eat Real Food?
    While eating and cooking with turmeric is great, the amount required for a therapeutic dose would likely be unpalatable for most people. We should be supplementing with at least 500 mg of turmeric to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits.


  4. Featured Food: Leafy Greens
    Featured Nutrient: Vitamin C

    While people typically associate citrus fruit with vitamin c, dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, Swiss chard and arugula, are also great sources of the cold-fighting vitamin. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, plays a big role in immune system and can help with cold symptoms. 

    To Supplement or Eat Real Food?
    Eat Real Food.
    No clear conclusion that taking vitamin C supplements can help with cold severty. Research shows that have adequate vitamin C in your diet consistanty can reduce severity of a cold.


  5. Featured Food: Fish
    Featured Nutrient: Omega 3

    The Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish—such as salmon, trout, halibut, and tuna—help boost our immune systems, by increasing the activity of phagocytes, which are white blood cells that combat harmful bacteria. Omega 3 also decreases inflammation, which may help to protect the lungs from infection and colds

    To Supplement or Eat Real Food?
    We don’t get enough omega-3’s in our diet, so you’re likely best to supplement with omega 3. Take a 1,000 mg daily dose of purified fish oil or krill oil. EPA and DHA from Krill oil is more bioavailable than from fish oil.


Written by Nicole Osinga, RD, MAN, BASc

I'm a Registered Dietitian who works with clients in the Durham Region! I use evidence-based recommendations to help you achieve your nutrition goals. I have many hearty and delicious recipes to share! My office is in Courtice, ON. I regularly work with clients from Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Newcastle, Bowmanville and Courtice.

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