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Foods to boost your immune system, combat colds, help you stay healthy and keep you cycling

Cyclist magazine
18 Mar 2020

Blankets are great but tricky to ride in. So arm yourself with this lot to keep sniffles at bay

Nutrition is important for cyclists all year round, but with us bike riders tending to be slightly more susceptible to illness, the right diet can be the difference between enjoyable hours in the saddle and being stuck at home with the sniffles.

Now we are not claiming that a diet can stop the spread of COVID-19 - see official advice for the latest on that situation -  but having a good immune system and a healthy lifestyle can build up defences that make the likelihood of contracting seasonal viruses much less likely. 

With that in mind, here are five foods that can help boost your immune system, keep you healthy and riding this year - whether that's outside or on confined to the turbo trainer.

Foods to boost your immune system

Vitamin C


Your body can’t store this crucial nutrient, meaning you need to keep it constantly topped up: 1,000mg a day is thought to be enough to keep colds at bay.

Take it in supplement form as a powder, pill or effervescent tablet. Otherwise eat a couple of medium-sized oranges a day to get your fix, or make sure that your dinner plate is busy with broccolli, red peppers or kale.  

Echinacea


This herbal remedy has been used for centuries in the fight against colds and flu by boosting your immune system. In fact, some studies have shown it can reduce the effects of an infection by up to 30%. 

Experts suggest that taking between 500-1,000mg will have the optimal benefit, taken as a tincture dissolved in water or swallowed in tablet form.

Zinc

The latest research reveals that taking a zinc supplement can help to prevent colds and – if taken through the early stages of a cold – help alleviate upper repository infections.

Daily recommended intake is 11mg per day and though it comes as a supplement in a variety of forms (including gels, tablets and syrups), food such as Popeye’s favourite – spinach – is bursting with the stuff. 

Ginseng


This root has long been used in Chinese medicine to boost virility. We can’t make any, erm, firm claims for that, but the National Institute of Health in the US says there’s ‘promising evidence’ to suggest it lowers the risk of catching colds and flu by stimulating the immune system.

It can be taken as a tincture, tea or in capsules of usually 500mg to be consumed daily.  

Garlic 

Like ginseng, garlic seems to help combat colds and flu by boosting the body’s ability to defend itself.

Cooking this yummy but pungent root vegetable can destroy its medicinal compounds and enzymes, however, so it’s at its most effective when eaten raw: either crushed or diced.

Swallow it in odourless tablet or capsule form to avoid people avoiding you!

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