Dorset's award winning nutritionist and corporate wellness expert Barbara Cox tells Living what you should be eating to boost your immune system.

"Don’t worry if you can’t face following them all at once, you can follow them in steps, and very soon you’ll be maximising your body’s ability to function efficiently, ward off disease and heal itself."

1. Drink plenty of water. We’re composed of 70 to 80 per cent water, as well as being the main component of blood, water plays a vital role in maintaining correct body temperature and flushing toxins out of the body. You should aim to drink at least two litres a day.

2. Eat plenty of fruit and veg. Fruit and vegetables are simply the best kinds of food for us. Firstly, they are high in fibre, which is essential for the digestive system to work efficiently. Second, they provide a variety of essential minerals and vitamins. Thirdly, most fruit and vegetables contain pigments such as carotenes and flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that provide significant protection and naturally boost our immune system.

Aim to have these ten super immune boosting foods in your diet weekly: (1) Shiitake mushrooms (2) Blueberries (3) Mango (4) Curcuma Root (fresh turmeric) (5) Goji Berries (6) Blackberries (7) Broccoli (8) Pomegranate (9) Green Tea (10) Pear 3. Buy organic produce. There are over 400 different pesticides and fertilisers used in crop-farming. My rule of thumb here is to choose organic foods for those ingredients you eat a lot of to avoid the accumulation of pesticide residue.

4. Consume fish and fish oils. As well as providing us with nucleic acids needed for our cells, fish naturally provides oils which neutralise harmful free radicals in the body.

Great choices of oily fish are wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout.

5. Cut down on dairy. Research now shows some dairy products have been found to contain hormones, antibiotics, toxins and pesticides, all of which can have a damaging effect when consumed over a period of time. Try some great plant-based milks like oat, rice, almond, cashew, hazelnut, hemp and pea.

6. Cut down on sugar and saturated fats. Sugar can have a depleting effect on health because it imbalances the levels of minerals in the body and can have effects of lowering the immune system. Equally destructive are saturated fats and oils, such as those in animal fat (meat and dairy), as well as in junk, processed and fast foods.

7. Avoid food additives – especially colouring agents and artificial sweeteners. While some additives stop the growth of food-poisoning bacteria, the vast majority are used for cosmetic purposes to give food more colour, or to give it a stronger, sweeter or creamier taste. Unfortunately, many additives have been found to cause health problems such as asthma, rashes and hyperactivity. Most alarming of all are nitrites (meat preservatives, E249 – E262) and artificial sweeteners.

8. Reduce your intake of salt. We get all the sodium we need from the natural ingredients of food. Unfortunately, the extra that we get from prepared foods, in cooking and as a condiment is not only unnecessary, but actually very harmful. Try Himalayan crystal salt.

9. Strive for an alkalising diet. You’ve probably heard of acid rain, but have you heard of the human equivalent, acidosis? The body performs best when slightly alkaline (a pH of 7.4), but most Western diets nowadays contain an abundance of acid-forming foods. A few years of this imbalance can lead to serious consequences. Try to cut down on acid-forming food and drinks like alcohol, cakes, chocolate, coffee, crisps, fizzy drinks, eggs, meat, milk, salt, sugar and tea. Instead, try to consume more alkalising food and drinks like most fruit and vegetables.

10. Take a regular supplement of minerals and vitamins. Fruit and vegetables no longer provide vitamins and minerals in the concentrations that they should because the soil is being depleted of minerals and vitamins due to over-farming; and fruit and vegetables are often picked before the ripening stage when minerals and vitamins are formed; plus the minerals and vitamins that were present when the fruit and vegetables were picked may well have broken down by the time the produce reaches the supermarket shelves. For these reasons it is wise to take a daily supplement.

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