If you're keen to stay free of coughs and colds, it's difficult to know how to best protect yourself. Does it really help to stock up on super-strength vitamins? What about all the old wives' tales about bizarre food concoctions that are said to ward off symptoms?

The truth is that the natural function of a healthy immune system is the best defence against the common cold. While it's no guarantee that you won't succumb to sniffles or a sore throat, eating a balanced and varied diet that includes plenty of fruit and veg will ensure you're getting all the vital micronutrients that your immune system needs to work effectively.

Our Healthy Diet Plans are designed to help support your immune system by giving you five of your five-a-day (or even more), plus the nutrients that you need daily. If you haven't already, sign up today to receive free online access to the plan.

Nutritionist Kerry Torrens shares her three top tips to support the natural function of the immune system, plus how the recipes from our latest Healthy Diet Plan can help you achieve your goal.

3 tips for supporting your immune system

1. Top up your vitamin D

Fresh Salmon Nicoise

It's less of a concern when the sun's out, but when there's less of it, levels of vitamin D (the 'sunshine vitamin') are likely to be low. This vitamin is important for immune function, so try to include food sources regularly in your diet. Useful options include eggs, mushrooms and oily fish like salmon – try the recipes in our latest 7-day Healthy Diet Plan, including this delcious fresh salmon niçoise.

Read more about why we need vitamin D.

2. Eat onions and garlic

Spicy Chickpea Stew

Onions, garlic and chives not only add flavour to dishes, they also contain potent oils that have anti-microbial properties. The health benefits of onions and garlic make them a great addition to a balanced diet. We've included these ingredients throughout our Healthy Diet Plan, including our spicy chickpea stew with cauliflower, peppers and lemon.

3. Choose nourishing foods

Egg-Fried Noodles With Beansprouts

There is some evidence to suggest that a diet with too many calories and refined sugar can impair the immune system – yet another reason to limit your intake of sugar, alcohol and highly processed carbs. All our Healthy Diet Plan recipes aim to steer clear of refined, processed products and instead focus on nourishing ingredients, healthy fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Give it a go with our egg-friend noodles with beansprouts, peppers, ginger and a quick tahini sauce.

Enjoyed this? Get more health tips:

Your FREE Summer 2023 Healthy Diet Plan
Immune-friendly recipes
How to prevent a cold
How to get rid of a cold

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. Any Healthy Diet Plan featured by BBC Good Food is provided as a suggestion of a general balanced diet and should not be relied upon to meet specific dietary requirements. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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