By nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume

There are many components to optimal immune health, such as getting enough sleep, regular handwashing and keeping physically active; the concept of ‘boosting’ the immune system through diet is flawed, as boosting refers to something that is stimulated above the normal level.

It’s important to note that no single food or nutrient will prevent illness, however a healthy eating pattern, filled with lots of variety will support optimal immune health and avoid micronutrient deficiencies.

Essentially, a diet that is good for the immune system is one that is rich in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These are compounds that are naturally occurring in plant-based food, and the greater the variety of colours you eat, the better.

As we head into the colder months, supporting your immune system is important, so here are some of my favourite ingredients to incorporate into your diet that are guaranteed to give you a great start.

The power of plants

Eating a plant-rich diet doesn’t mean you need to be a vegan or vegetarian, it’s about focusing most of your meals around plants, such as incorporating lots of colourful fresh veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, while still including moderate amounts of dairy, meat and eggs (should you choose to).

Brighten up with berries

Just 150g serve (1 punnet) offers more than the recommended daily intake for vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Top on yoghurt, blend in smoothies or just eat as is for a nutrient-rich snack on-the-go.

Blueberries (as well as strawberries, blackberries and raspberries) are high in vitamin C, antioxidants, fibre, potassium and folate and are great to eat during pregnancy.

Nibble on nuts

Just like fruit and veggies, eating nuts each day is a daily essential. Grab a handful for an afternoon snack, sprinkle them through your salads and stir-frys, or slather nut butters on sourdough toast or smoothies for a dose of protein, fibre and heart-healthy fats.

Love your legumes

These cost-effective pantry staples are a nutritious addition to any meal. Not only do they have filling-power from the dietary fibre, but they also provide a solid protein hit and a substantial amount of zinc – a mineral that is known to play a key role in the immune system. From adding chickpeas to casseroles, lentils to curry, peas to soup or bens to stir-fry, just half a cup of cooked legumes (75g) provides 1.5mg of zinc which is 11% of the RDI for men and 19% of the RDI for women.

Up your grain game

Starting your day with breakfast high in whole grains gives you a healthy dose of dietary fibre to help support a healthy digestive system. Currently I’m loving the UNCLE TOBYS PLUS Immune Support, with added vitamins C, D, B6 and zinc. It’s an easy way to get a boost of whole grains in the whole family’s diet for a nourishing start to the morning.

A breakfast high in whole grains gives you a healthy dose of dietary fibre.

Mushrooms

One in four Aussies are vitamin D deficient. While getting enough sunlight is important, sun exposed mushrooms are an essential food able to help meet daily vitamin D levels to support a healthy immune system function. Not only are they nutritious, but versatile. Mushrooms make a delicious side dish, a meaty main or an irresistible topping for pizza night.