Practical ways to support your immune system during seasonal change

Posted on May 25, 2021 by

With the seasons changing, it is important for elite athletes to positively contribute to their overall health and immune support through the food choices they make, both around training and during the day.

In addition to practising good hygiene, there are some strategies athletes can implement in their diet to help strengthen and maintain their immune system to protect against infection or reduce severity or time of symptoms during illness to keep training at your best.

Below are some key nutrients and foods to include to support your immune function through a varied and diverse range of food and some practical ways to include them in your diet each day. At the same time, you increase these colourful and nutrient-dense options its also important to not reach for highly processed, convenience foods high in sugar and fats.


Practical tips for immune support

Antioxidants Example Food Sources Practical suggestions to incorporate
Vitamin A Orange and yellow fruit and veggies such as yellow capsicum, pumpkin, oranges, mandarins, squash, corn, carrot, sweet potato, lemon
  • Include snacks like oranges or mandarins OR carrots & capsicum with hummus
  • Includes yellow and orange vege with meals
  • Squeeze lemon over salads
Vitamin C Red, orange and dark green fruit and vegetables such as purple cabbage, oranges, pumpkin, kiwi fruit, red capsicum, papaya, guava, strawberries, tomatoes and silverbeet.
  • Use purple cabbage as well as lettuce/baby spinach as a base for salads
  • Cut up kiwi to put on your breakfast
  • Make fruit smoothies with papaya, strawberries and papaya
Vitamin E Nuts, seeds, olive oils, avocado
  • Include nuts as snacks with your fruit
  • Use olive oil for cooking
  • Use nut butter as a spread on wraps/toast
  • Throw toasted seeds and avo through salads
Selenium Crab, tuna, mussels, sardines, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and lentils.
  • Include tinned tuna/sardines as a protein source in meals or as a snack with grainy crackers
  • Chop brazil nuts and add to natural yoghurt
Other antioxidants Fresh Herbs (like basil, rosemary, parsley), Fragrant spices (like cinnamon/ turmeric/pepper), acai, dark berries, cacao/cocoa, apples
  • Add cinnamon to your oats or porridge
  • Use spices in meals / soups / spice rubs
  • Add fresh herbs to salads and cooking
  • Use cacao with smoothies, in yoghurt or to make a healthy hot chocolate with honey
Other nutrients or food What it does or where to find it Practical suggestions to incorporate
Zinc Oysters, red meat, chicken, pork, crab, chickpeas, wheatgerm, legumes and lentils
  • Eat red meat 2-3x/week (also high in iron)
  • Add lentils and legumes to meals or include vegetarian options in your week
Garlic & Ginger Both boost the immune system with their antimicrobial ability and stimulating the lymphatic system
  • Try rubbing some garlic onto your toast
  • Make a cup of ginger, lemon & honey tea
  • Whip up a salsa or guacamole with extra garlic
  • Include ginger in smoothies and soups
Prebiotics & probiotics Insoluble fibre, leeks, asparagus, inulin
Natural yoghurt, kefir, fermented vegetables
  • These support gut health and improve the mucosal lining of the gut and decrease inflammation
  • Better digestion and nutrient absorption



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