The winter months bring colder mornings, shorter days and the dreaded common cold. Athletes and sportspeople under physiological stress from high-intensity training and competition can have a greater risk of infection due to immunosuppression.
Thankfully the Sports Dietitians at Precision Athletica in Sydney, have come up with some great ideas for what to include in your diet in order to help boost your immune system, prevent you getting sick, or if you are sick, help you to recover quicker and get back to training.
- Vitamin D
Rugging up in the cold often means we expose less of our skin to sunlight throughout the day. This can put us at an increased risk of Vitamin D deficiency, as sunlight is our major source of this vital nutrient.
Inadequate Vitamin D levels can adversely affect the immune system as it is particularly important for T-cell mediated immunity. In other words, it helps to fight off bugs that may infect our bodies.
Where possible, aim for 20 minutes of sun exposure on your arms and legs per day, however if you’re struggling to meet that, small amounts of Vitamin D can be found in foods such as salmon, mushrooms, eggs and fortified products such as margarine.
Probiotics are the live bacteria that feed our gut and play an important role in preventing upper respiratory tract infections and gut intestinal tract infections. You can find them in foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and kefir or in the form of a supplement.
Including these in your diet can help keep your gut function optimally and give you the best chance of fighting off any unwanted bacteria.
- Fruits and vegetables
A diet that is rich in colourful fruits and vegetables will provide an abundance of micronutrients that will benefit your immune system amongst other things.
Aim for two serves of fruit and at least five serves of vegetables every day. Mixing up your sources will ensure your micronutrient pool is thriving and will give you the best chance of avoiding sickness.