Training & Nutrition

10 Foods That Will Help Boost Your Immune System

Stay away from the medical cabinet with these tasty kitchen treats

It’s getting colder, darker, damper and we all know what that means… the plague is coming. Your office becomes a soup kitchen of germs, air conditioning and repeated comments of: “I just cannot afford to be sick right now” following by a hacking cough and shivers.

There really is nothing worse than getting ill when you’re trying to be fit, or right before an event that you’ve been preparing for for months. Being ill can hinder your training plans, and mentally drain you of that last bit of motivation that you’ve been hanging onto.

The good news is that moderate, regular exercise and a healthy diet is good for your immune system. The bad news is that hard interval training is definitely not good for it, and your body is weak to bugs in the hour or so after a tough training session.

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There are plenty of foods that will help boost your immune system, so stay ahead of those germs and build up your defences – here are some of the best….

Probiotic Yoghurt

Probiotics in yoghurt provide good bacteria that keep your stomach happy, which is important since bacteria in your gut influences the development of chemicals and cells which develop the immune system.

A happy stomach may also lead to better mental well-being, thanks to serotonin made in the gut, too – so it’s a win all round.

You can opt for a probiotic morning drink, but any yoghurt containing “live and active” cultures will contain the happy critters to keep you tip top, and natural yoghurt generally contains a lot less sugar.


Beef is high in zinc – which is a nutrient many modern day diets lack. A zinc deficiency can result in fatigue, and an increased risk of picking up an infection as it’s crucial in the development of white blood cells, which detect and destroy bugs.

It’s also a great complete protein, and contains creatine, which can build explosive muscle – useful for the sprinters out there.


Garlic has long been used to boost the immune system because it has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties, as well as containing B vitamins and vitamin C.

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The major antibacterial boost in Garlic is thought to come from the allicin which it contains – which fights infections and the bacteria that cause them. Garlic is also considered a natural remedy for hay-fever sufferers in the Summer months.

Leafy Greens

Kale, spinach and broccoli are all examples of foods which are packed full of folate and photochemicals – they contain iron, which is particularly important for menstruating women.

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These leafy greens are also high in Vitamin C, thought  to increase the production of white blood cells, and Vitamin K, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, too.

All of these greens are best cooked as lightly as possible, to retain their nutrients.

Green Tea

Firstly, keeping hydrated is essential – over 60% of your body is made up of water, which plays a crucial role in delivering nutrients around the entire system. Though water is of course number one for hydration, green and black teas also contain high levels of flavonoids – antioxidants.

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Green tea pips black tea to the post with extra antioxidants (in the form of epigallocatechin gallate if you want to really geek out). Green tea also contains L-thenine – an amino acid which helps your body to produce germ-fighting compounds.

If you’ve already got a cold, the steam from a hot cuppa can also help to unblock congested nasal passages.

Button Mushrooms

Not famed for their nutrient content, mushrooms actually contain high levels of antioxidants, and the mineral selenium. Low levels of selenium have been linked to the liklihood of developing a cold or flu.

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Mushrooms also contain B vitamins, which are beneficial for the immune system. So far studies on animals have shown eating mushrooms can have antiviral and antibacterial effects,  as well as possibly preventing tumors. So why not cook up a storm in the kitchen with this delicious gems?


Famed for its anti-inflammatory effects, Turmeric is the yellow/orange spice used in a lot of Indian cuisine. The high concentrations of curcumin are what give Turmeric its colour, and it’s these which are believed to reduce inflammation and fever, making it a good addition to warming foods when you’re already feeling off.

Oranges and Citrus Fruits

Usually number one on the shopping list if you start to feel the first signs of a cold, and they’re well documented for being high in Vitamin C, which plays a role in the production of white blood cells.

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Oranges also contain Vitamin A, which plays a role in the immune system as well, as it helps maintain the cells which line your airways, digestive system and urinary tracts – the body’s first defence against infection.


Vitamin E is often overlooked when we talk about maintaining a healthy immune system, but it’s just as crucial as it’s neighbour but on in the alphabet for maintaining cell health.

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Vitamin E is fat-soluble, which means it needs fat present to be properly absorbed. Almonds contain both Vitamin E, and fat – ticking off both boxes.


Ginger can be used in sweet desserts or stir fries. It contains gingerol – which has similar properties to capasicin, which you find in chilli peppers. It also contains ‘sesquiterpenes’ – and they target rhinoviruses – a common family of viruses.

So stay on top of your body’s defences and fend off those cold and fly germs this winter. After all, no one wants to take a break from riding!

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