The Instagram logo

Your immunity-boosting shopping list

Michaella Mazzoni, registered nutritional therapist, suggests some top immune-boosting foods and supplements to help fight off colds and flu this winter

Many of us end up succumbing to a cold, sore throat or the flu during the winter months. However, the good news is that there are several foods and supplements that can help to support our immunity. Try adding some of these immune-boosting natural heroes to your shopping basket and keep those germs at bay.


Mushrooms contain something called beta glucans, which prime the immune system and help to keep it strong, thus preventing infections like colds and flu, supporting immune enhancement and antioxidant functioning. For those who don’t like the taste of mushroom, medicinal mushrooms are readily available such as shiitake and reishi. Please note: cordyceps mushroom supplements are not suitable for those with autoimmune conditions due to their immune-stimulating properties.

Top tip: Try including mushrooms where you can in your daily meals, mixed into stir fries, stews or soups and casseroles.

Prebiotic foods

Did you know that 70 per cent of the immune system resides in the gut? This is why when you are trying to improve immune system function, you can’t ignore the gut! Prebiotic food feeds the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut; apples, pears, oats, leeks, onions and high fibre foods are all great sources of prebiotics. A broad-spectrum probiotic also helps to support the balance of gut bacteria. A great winter breakfast is porridge with grated carrot or pear, some ginger and a small handful of mixed nuts.

Top tip: : Stew a small batch of apples and pears on a Sunday night and keep in the fridge, then simply stir into your oats while cooking to warm.


Elderberry syrups, teas and tinctures have been taken for hundreds of years in efforts to support the immune system, both while fighting off a cold or flu and for general upkeep of the immune system. Outside of winter, elderberry is also supportive of hayfever symptoms, especially so with locally-sourced elderberries.

Top tip: Try using elderberry in syrup form to flavour porridge or smoothies for an immune-boosting breakfast.


Zinc deficiency is very common and often missed in Western countries. This is an especially important nutrient when it comes to the winter months. Foods highest in zinc are meat, shellfish, legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils and beans), nuts, seeds and eggs. You can get supplemental zinc to help keep your levels topped up as well as including foods high in zinc in your diet.

Top tip: As you can see from the above list, the top zinc foods are meat/fish-based so including a zinc supplement over winter is usually recommended for vegetarians and vegans.


Garlic is a fantastic immune-boosting food that has antimicrobial (antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal) effects due to a property called allicin. Release the allicin by crushing the garlic and leaving it for 10 to 12 minutes. When fighting off a viral infection, take the crushed garlic with a teaspoon, as you would a pill. If the taste is too much to stomach, you can get allicin/garlic extract supplements from health food stores, although do check the amount of garlic per capsule to ensure you are getting a good dosage.

Top tip: When cooking with garlic, add it as a very last ingredient as allicin is sensitive to heat.

Coconut oil

Often forgotten in immune food lists, coconut oil is an excellent antimicrobial ingredient, similar to garlic. Use coconut oil in cooking, as a healthy fat in smoothies (in small quantities) and topically to support fungal infections. It can be used to help athlete’s foot by making up a homemade paste of 2:1 coconut oil to crushed garlic.

Top tip: Like garlic, coconut oil is sensitive to heat, so add a small amount of water to your pan or wok when cooking with coconut oil to preserve its structure.

Michaella Mazzoni, Registered NT, DipCNM mBANT CNHC reg, offers private nutrition consultations to help support all areas of health such as IBS, low energy, chronic pain, menopause, mental health and hormonal conditions (PCOS, endometriosis, PMS). Michaella works at Napier’s/D.Atkinson, Neal’s Yard and Soma, Edinburgh. She also offers video consultations for those unable to travel to her clinics. To book an appointment, contact Michaella directly at info@michaellamazzoninutrition or 07786 841 333.

Read previous Your Health articles here...

Read articles from our latest issue here...