With the winter cough and cold season looming,  many of us will be stocking up on vitamin supplements and cold remedies – but there’s evidence that we may be able to head off those bugs by simply adding some  immune-boosting foods into our daily diet.

Most people turn to vitamin C pills after they’ve caught a cold, as it’s well-known for building up the immune system and increasing the production of white blood cells, key to fighting infections.

But since prevention is better than cure, it’s far better to up our intake of vitamin C from foods – the best-known of which are citrus fruits including grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes, and those seasonal favourites, tangerines and clementines.  With such a variety to choose from, it’s easy to include a squeeze of this vitamin at every meal. 

It’s a mistake to think that citrus fruits have the most vitamin C though. In fact, ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus, as well as being a rich source of beta carotene. 

Eating up your greens can also make a difference – and in particular, broccoli, which is supercharged with vitamins A, C and E plus minerals and one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate.  Spinach also makes the list – not just because it’s rich in vitamin C, but also packed with antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. As with broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so as to retain its nutrients. 

Then there’s garlic – of which we have no shortage here on the Isle of Wight! Found in almost every cuisine in the world, it not only adds flavour to food but is a must-have for health. Early civilizations recognized the value of garlic in fighting infections, and its immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. 

The peppery root of ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. Whether chopped into a salad dressing, cooked in a casserole or taken as a warming tea, It can help in decreasing inflammation, easing a raspy sore throat  and relieving nausea.

Of course many people swear by old-fashioned chicken soup when they’re in the throes of a winter cold – and with good reason:  stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity.