Before your fitness goals succumb to winter ills, here’s how to eat to forge an impenetrable barrier so you’re always in good health.

Exercise isn’t always the health kick it’s cracked up to be, especially if you’re shooting for personal bests in endurance events. As many as one in seven distance runners comes down with regular upper-respiratory tract infections, found a study in Research Digest. This occurs because your body devotes resources to repair your worn out muscles rather than send them to the disease-fighting front lines.

“Fortunately, you can shore up your defense by eating powerful immune-boosting foods,” says sports nutritionist Gavin Allinson. Use this select group of sickness-fighting eats to get stronger from inside and out.


1. Himalayan rock salt

We all love a bit of salt, but eating more than 5g a day can raise blood pressure and create water retention, making you look chunkier than a jar of peanut butter. Fortunately, you can still satisfy your ‘salt tooth’ and make yourself healthier by switching to Himalayan rock salt (available at any health food store). This salt is mined from the earth, making it rich in the 84 minerals you need to keep your immune system strong.

People who daily drank water containing this salt improved their respiratory conditions, organ functions and connective tissues, found a study conducted at the University of Graz, Austria. They also slept better, had more energy and could concentrate better.


2. Avocados and tomatoes

If you’re a fan of a sandwich, taco or salad then chances are you’ve already ministered one of the longest-standing nutritional marriages: avocados and tomatoes. When the fat in the avocado combines with the tomato, or any other brightly colored vegetable, you absorb 15 times more of its beta-carotene, found research in the Journal of Nutrition.

This antioxidant minimizes the free radical damage, limiting the damage to cell membranes, DNA and protein structures in your body. Make guacamole a regular on your dip menu.


3. Spirulina

If you’re after a nutrient with form and function look no further than spirulina because research in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that it improves immunity and bumps up your exercise endurance by almost 10%.

It might have a pinch-your-nose-and-drink flavor but adding it to a shake with sweet ingredients, like egg whites and coconut milk, will disguise its bitterness so you can bathe your innards in its defensive properties.


4. Turmeric flavoured curries

A curry might be all the culinary protection you need to fend off the sniffs. Research conducted by the American Chemical Society found turmeric (commonly found in curries) acts like a biochemical disciplinarian that inserts into cell membranes, making them more stable thereby increasing your cells’ resistance to infection by disease-causing microbes. Doesn’t taste half bad either.


5. Colostrum protein shakes

Colostrum protein shakes do more than just build muscle, they can keep you strong inside too. A study at New Zealand’s Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health found taking colostrum protein increases the immunity in your respiratory tract – an area often infected in athletes – by as much as 79%.

The protein is made from the milk a cow creates for its calf the first two days after it’s given birth. Don’t worry, she makes enough for two. It’s rich in protein and the growth factor that’ll help you add muscle while sparing extra ink on your doc’s prescription.


6. Anything with zinc in

Vitamin C might have been the buzz nutrient for fighting colds back in your dad’s day but there’s a better option you can use: zinc. Taking zinc supplements within 24 hours of feeling a cold coming on reduced the duration and severity of the ailment, found a study in The Cochrane Library. You don’t have to supplement and can get your supplies the natural way by eating foods like pumpkin seeds, beef, spinach, cashews and mushrooms.


Find nutrition tips and more in every issue of TRAIN magazine.