The key to staying healthy through the miserable cold and flu season is to focus on good nutrition. A number of immune-system-boosting herbs and foods may keep that next cold at bay. While food alone cannot prevent the cold or flu, experts agree that diverse diets rich in a large variety of produce, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products contribute to a well-functioning immune system and may shorten recovery time if you do get sick. The following are some foods that help boost your immune system when you’re feeling under the weather.
Yogurt packs a healthy dose of good bacteria that can protect the body against harmful bacteria and infections. The good-for-you probiotic bacteria can improve the body’s immune response by increasing your white blood cell count.
Turmeric is a rich and flavourful spice commonly used in yellow curry, and its golden colour comes from curcumin, a polyphenol with cold- and flu-fighting properties.
Garlic’s immune-boosting properties come from its sulfur-containing compounds, which are effective against bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections. They also enhance the immune system and have antitumor and antioxidant features.
Oregano is a potent antioxidant due to its high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids—colour compounds that are anti-inflammatory. It can protect against the common cold, influenza, fevers and indigestion.
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are a good source of phytochemicals, beta carotenes and vitamin C. In fact, they have twice the vitamin C of oranges. Research has shown that increasing vitamin C intake can reduce the length of time cold symptoms last and reduce the severity of those symptoms.
Tea is rich in polyphenols (plant antioxidants) as well as other chemicals that can help protect the body against cold or flu. In addition, its warm and steamy effect can be soothing when you are sick.
The rich, orange flesh of a pumpkin is packed with beta carotene, a nutrient the body breaks down to make vitamin A. This vitamin helps keep the respiratory system healthy. And don’t forget the seeds, which are brimming with zinc.
Not just a summertime treat, watermelon is packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, but its high concentration of lycopene makes it a superfood. Lycopene offers an array of health-building benefits, including reducing respiratory inflammation.
Ginger has been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting often associated with the flu. It is also recommended for use as a tea or bath for people with a cold or flu, because it helps increase sweat production, which may flush out toxins.
Oysters are high in zinc, which is good at protecting the body against colds and flu by enhancing T cells. They are important in identifying foreign antigens and alerting other cells of the immune system to invaders.
Mushrooms are also a major source of zinc. People who don’t have enough zinc in their diet tend to have fewer white blood cells to help fight off disease.
Greens such as kale, spinach and Swiss chard are immune-boosting foods with high levels of vitamin C and folate.
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E, and it is high in glucosinolates, which stimulate the body’s immune system.
Cauliflower is beneficial to eat when sick because it is rich is glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off infection.
A key source of fiber, wheat germ is also packed with protein and vitamins, including vitamin E, and it is a great source of immunity-boosters choline and zinc.