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Can food boost your immune system?

Can food boost your immune system?

Colds and minor viruses are an unfortunate part of life, especially in winter. A lot of us will up our orange juice intake as the nights draw in, in the hope it helps our immune systems stay fighting fit to battle off any threatening germs.

But while our lifestyles and diet do affect the strength of our immune system, it's not quite as simple as eating foods that have an 'immune-boosting' reputation, like soups and juices.

Our immune systems are only impaired, in fact, when we're deficient in something, say, iron or vitamin D.

It's possible, as we get into winter, that your vitamin D stores will drop, thus making you more susceptible to picking up a nasty bug. The best way to combat this is with a daily supplement, as we don’t get very much from food.

But while your diet might not have much of an effect, one study has found that vitamin C supplements, while not good at lowering our risk of getting colds, may slightly reduce the length of time a cold sticks around for.

As for orange juice, there’s no real evidence that drinking it helps prevent colds, or make them any less of a pain when we catch them.

Plot twist

Before you stock up on the supplements and write off your grandma’s chicken soup – hope isn’t lost.

Just believing in the immune-boosting powers of a food or juice may be enough to help you fight off the germs this winter.

In one study, believing in the alleged cold-fighting properties of the herbal remedy echinacea led to milder and shorter colds in people who took daily doses. Studies in which people weren't aware they were getting daily echinacea weren't shown to improve cold symptoms.

But this placebo effect could work the other way, too. For example, milk has long – and inaccurately - been thought to produce more mucus when we have a cold

One study found that people who believed that milk does cause more mucus reported more cold symptoms after drinking it.

All you need is balance - and belief

Science tells us that having a balanced diet full of all the nutrients we need - iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D - will keep our immune systems working as well as they can over winter. And if all else fails,  just believing in your mum’s trusty cold remedy might help. 

TYME’s meals are packed with a range of nutrients to help you reach your daily quota. Our Golden Californian, for example, contains a range of vegetables and seeds that are packed with vitamins C, K and B, as well as iron.