Food to boost immunity

Our immune system is often challenged by two key factors, namely - winter months and growing older (the ageing process). As we enter into the winter months, the colder weather may be a seasonal factor in increasing transmission of pathogens. We are often more prone to cold, flu and other wintry ailments during this time. In addition to the cold, as we age the production of the key blood immune fighter cells such as the T-Cells also decline. In the following article, Jenna Hope, Registered Nutritionist, provides 5 lifestyle changes you can make to support your immune system and overall health Jenna says "Don’t worry though as this is a really natural part of ageing and the good news is that diet and lifestyle choices can help to support immune function and may help to support our immune function for longer. Below are some top tips for supporting a healthy immune system this winter.

Lifestyle Changes To Support Your Immune System

Prioritise protein1. Prioritise protein

Protein plays various roles in the body including: supporting hormone production, muscle growth and repair, hair structure and is fundamental in the production of the immune cells. Strong evidence has shown that protein-energy malnutrition i.e. inadequate protein intake has been associated with impaired immunity and delayed antibody production. The recommendations are to consume around 0.8-1g of protein per kg body weight, however, if you’re a keen exerciser you may need around 1.2-1.5g of protein per kg body weight. The best sources of protein include: good quality meat, fish, diary, eggs, nuts and seeds such as Linwoods Shelled Hemp Seeds. Adding one portion of Shelled Hemp Seeds to your porridge or yoghurt in the morning can provide 7g of protein! Shelled Hemp Seeds are also rich in iron and zinc, both of which play key roles in contributing to supporting the immune function.

Exercise and diet2. Exercise in moderation

It’s common knowledge that moderate exercise can be beneficial for supporting our long-term cardiovascular health, metabolic health and skeletal health. Regular, moderate exercise is deemed as 45-60 minutes between three and five times per week. However, the research shows that overexercising without adequate rest can increase the risk of infection and a compromised immune system. Adequate rest and recovery includes: optimal nutrition, rehydration and prioritising sleep. So remember moderation over abundance!

3. Add a portion of flaxseeds to your daily diet

Flaxseeds are rich in magnesium which plays an important role in supporting energy and reducing tiredness and fatigue throughout the winter months. The Linwoods Immune Support flaxseed and hemp seed blend is an excellent way to support the immune system this winter, it’s loaded with Vitamins B12, C, D to help support the immune function and is also rich in zinc and iron too. Vitamins B12 and iron can be challenging to obtain from a vegan diet and so if you’re following a more plant heavy diet adding one portion to your porridge or soup each day is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough.

4. Prioritise your sleep

Sleep has been deemed to be more important than diet and exercise alone yet it’s often something which we cut short in an attempt to fit everything else into our day. Sleep plays a pivotal role in nurturing our immunity as we use this time to replenish, reset and clean our systems. When sleep is compromised we may notice our immune system becomes compromised too. The recommendations are to sleep between 7-9 hours per night but some evidence highlights that when you sleep may be just as important as how long you sleep for.

Research has shown that disrupting the internal circadian clock by sleeping during the day rather than at night can lead to an increase in inflammation and a compromised immune system. We know that sleeping throughout the night isn’t feasible for everyone however, where possible do try to the hit pillow a little earlier at night.

Bone health and nutrition5. Incorporate more pre- and probiotic rich foods

The gut microbiome is a primary site of the immune cell function and therefore nurturing the beneficial microbes within the gut can help with supporting the immune cells. Consuming a variety of pre and probiotic rich foods can contribute to nourishing the beneficial bacteria in the gut and maintaining a positive balance. Where possible try to incorporate probiotic rich foods such as live yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and kimchi into the diet alongside prebiotic sources such as garlic, leeks, bananas and asparagus to help promote a beneficial microbiome. Additionally, milled flaxseed with bio cultures and vitamin D also contains live cultures to help populate a healthy gut. Vitamin D also contributes to supporting the immune function and deficiency can impact not only immunity but mood and bone health too. One serving contains 4g of protein, 6g of fibre and 5µg of Vitamin D making it a great way to support energy and keeping you feeling fuller for longer too. Try adding one serving to your yoghurt or porridge bowl in the morning.

In the case of bone weakening and osteoporosis, consultant rheumatologists such as Prof David Reid and Dr Stephanie Kaye-Barrett remind us of the importance of taking an integrated treatment approach for bone healthClearly, for people with very severe osteoporosis as diagnosed using dual-energy x-ray (DXA) scanning, the ideal would be not just to prevent bone breakdown, but to also stimulate new bone formation. The effectiveness of treatments can be monitored by a combination of DXA scanning and diagnostic tests involving the new bone turnover markers.

Supporting a healthy immune system requires a multi-dimensional approach and therefore being aware of a variety of lifestyle and dietary factors can really support immunity this winter. If this feels overwhelming, try to focus on one key point at a time in order to ensure long-term sustainable dietary change. It really doesn’t have to be challenging, simply giving your pet an extra cuddle each day can help to support your immunity too!


  • Haspel, J. A., Anafi, R., Brown, M. K., Cermakian, N., Depner, C., Desplats, P., … & Solt, L. A. (2020). Perfect timing: circadian rhythms, sleep, and immunity—an NIH workshop summary. JCI insight, 5(1).
  • Ragnoli, B., Pochetti, P., Pignatti, P., Barbieri, M., Mondini, L., Ruggero, L., … & Malerba, M. (2022). Sleep deprivation, immune suppression and SARS-CoV-2 infection. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(2), 904.
  • Chandra, R. K. (1997). Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 66(2), 460S-463S.
One of a group of special proteins in the blood that are produced in response to a specific antigen and play a key role in immunity and allergy. Full medical glossary
A group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
The growth within a laboratory of microbes, organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
A substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. Full medical glossary
The organs specialised to fight infection. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
The body’s response to injury. Full medical glossary
An element present in haemoglobin in the red cells. Full medical glossary
The condition that occurs if insufficient nutients, vitamins and minerals are eaten to maintain good health. Full medical glossary
Relating to metabolism. Full medical glossary
Tissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement. Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary

  A bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.

Full medical glossary
Lying face-downwards. Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
septic arthritis Full medical glossary
Relating to blood vessels. Full medical glossary
Essential substances that cannot be produced by the body and so must be acquired from the diet. Full medical glossary