It’s that time of the year – not only are exams coming, but noses are running! “Tis the season for the common cold, and it seems like every day there’s a new supplement on the market promising to help protect us by keeping our immune system strong. We’ve decoded the evidence behind nutrition and the immune system – read on to learn more!

Vitamin C

Research shows that consuming around 200 mg or more of vitamin C daily has a modest but consistent effect in reducing cold duration and severity of symptoms.1 This study found that results were shown particularly for individuals who were exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise or cold environments; for example, a day of skiing – or running after an OC Transpo bus during winter time!

3 tips to incorporate vitamin-C rich foods into your diet
• For breakfast, top your morning cereal or oatmeal with sliced berries
• Load up half your plate with vegetables such as broccoli or red pepper slices
• Toss some orange or grapefruit slices from the all-day-breakfast into a salad for some extra vitamin C

For more information about sources of vitamin C and how to include vitamin C-rich foods into your lifestyle, check out the following link:


Daily zinc supplementation in doses of 10-15 mg looks promising for showing immune system benefits. Two randomized-controlled studies showed a significant reduction in colds; about 0.5 to 1.4 fewer colds over 5 to 7 winter months.2 The best food sources of zinc are seafood, meat, seeds, and cooked dried beans, peas and lentils – include these foods often in your diet.3

Wheat Germ: 30 mL (2 Tbsp) has 2.4 mg zinc
Cheese (Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella): 50 g (1 ½ oz) has 1.2-2.2 mg zinc
Cooked veal liver: 75 g (2 ½ oz) has 8.4-8.9 mg zinc
Cooked beef: 75 g (2 ½ oz) has 4.0-8.6 mg zinc
Pumpkin or Squash Seeds: 60 mL (1/4 cup) has 2.7-4.4 mg zinc
Baked Beans: 175 mL (3/4 cup) has 4.3 mg zinc

Echinacea is an herb that has traditionally been used to ease cold symptoms. You may have also heard of garlic supplementation being used to help ease colds. Ginseng is the root of the Panax plant that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. However, there’s still not enough evidence to confidently recommend Echinacea, garlic or ginseng for immune health – we still need more research!2

Echnacea, garlic and ginseng are considered “natural” supplements. To see if Health Canada has reviewed a natural health-care product for safety, quality and health claims, look for one of the following on the label:4

• Drug Identification Number (DIN)
• Natural Product Number (NPN)
• Drug Identification Number – Homeopathic Medicine (DIN-HM)

Remember that although they can be considered “natural supplements”, it does not necessarily make it safe for everyone – they still may have side effects, so talk to your doctor about any natural health products that you are currently taking or planning to take.

While vitamin C and zinc supplementation may have some benefit, a healthy balanced diet is still your best bet to stay healthy and nourished this winter!

1. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (2013) 

2. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence (2014)

3. Food Sources of Zinc (2017)

4. Get the Facts on the Immune System (2016)

Monday, December 10, 2018 in , ,
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