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What to eat to beat cold and flu season

In Body + Soul, Features, Nourish, Stories, Wellness by Nicole Fuge

Feeling sniffly? Cold and flu season is here, but we mamas don’t have time to get sick. Dietician and Swisse expert, Simone Austin shares some insider secrets on what to pop in your bod.

By Simone Austin

We know, we know, ‘tis the season for the sniffles. Statistics say that most people will catch an average of 2-4 colds per year. But mamas don’t have time to get sick!

So keep the bugs at bay with micronutrients from this immunity-boosting food.


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Major in the micros

There are two types of nutrients you need from your diet – macro and micro. Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and fats, while micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. All nutrients play different but vital roles in your health, wellbeing and immunity:

Vitamin A. Milk, cheese, eggs (yolk), orange and yellow fruits and vegetables

Vitamin B. Legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables

Vitamin C. Citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberry, parsley, cabbage

Vitamin D. Egg (yolks), cheese, fatty fish, fortified dairy and cereals

Vitamin E. Olives and olive oil, avocado, wholegrain cereals

Iron. Lean meat, green leafy vegetables, legumes

Calcium. Dairy products, almonds, tahini, green leafy vegetables

Magnesium. Nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes, green leafy vegetables

Zinc. Lean meat, chicken, fish, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, oysters

Selenium. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, oats

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Don’t forget your flavonoids

Certain phytonutrients, especially flavonoids, are all about enhancing your immune function. Getting them is as simple as eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruit – at least five and two servings a day (respectively), according to The Australian Dietary Guidelines. Make sure you include blueberries and apple in your fruit quota (they are amazing!)

Fun fact: research from the University of Auckland found adults who eat flavonoid-rich foods – found in green tea, apples, blueberries, cocoa, red wine and onions, or take flavonoid supplements – are 33 per cent more protected from the common cold, compared with those who do not.

Lead researcher Dr Andrea Braakhuis says people who eat flavonoids also have fewer sick days.

“If you’re generally healthy, eating flavonoids found in lots of fruits and vegetables, can help stave off the bugs over Winter. We’d all love to make it through Winter without one of these nasty colds. They’re a leading cause of visits to a doctor, so it’s worth giving flavonoids a go as part of a healthy diet,” says Braakhuis.

Stuck for inspo? Try porridge with grated apple and blueberries, pack a snack of sliced apple and blueberries or whip up a healthy apple blueberry crumble using nuts or muesli as the crunchy top.

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The pros of probiotics

Most people think of zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea for prevention of colds and flu long before they think of probiotics. But research by the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group shows probiotics can enhance your immune system to help prevent viral respiratory tract infections like the common cold.

The pros of probiotics don’t stop there.

Another study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that a combination of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei reduced the risk of getting a cold and strengthened the subjects’ immune defenses by boosting B-lymphocytes, aka virus-thwarting immune cells.

The same study also found, if you do come down with a cold or flu, probiotics tend to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Add probiotics to your daily routine by either eating foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, pickles, miso soup or by taking a daily probiotic supplement.

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Make all meals happy

OK, so technically not a cold and flu fighter, but this may boost your bad mood immunity.

“That blah feeling we get in the Winter is related to a lack of serotonin, which is linked to lack of sunlight,” explains Dr Judith Wurtman, author of the Serotonin Power Diet.

As Winter progresses and your mood has the habit of going from sunshine to darkness, you can restore its serotonin to Summer levels, by eating complex carbs. She recommends eating a 150-200 calorie carb-based snack in the late afternoon like instant oats, a small sweet potato or wholegrain toast. Good mood food.

If symptoms persist, we recommend consulting your healthcare practitioner.

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