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Eat well, stay healthy

It never fails. Around January and February, the sounds of coughing and sneezing can be heard in every bus, train, grocery store and office building, and more and more people at work start calling out sick. But what if you could prevent getting sick this season? While there are a few different strategies to help in the fight against the cold and the flu, your diet is one of your greatest assets. 

“In the cold and dry air, it’s very easy for colds and the flu to spread,” said Geisinger dietitian Marianne Williams, RDN. “You can try to limit your contact with sick people, but that is sometimes easier said than done. Your best plan of action is to get a flu shot, get at least seven hours of sleep every night, pay attention to symptoms, wash your hands and eat a healthy diet. All of these factors can help keep your immune system strong and keep you from getting sick.”

Here are six foods that can help boost your immunity and keep you healthy through cold and flu season.

Peppers and Citrus
What do peppers and citrus fruits have in common? They’re great sources of vitamin C—a vitamin that can help support your immune system.

“When most people think about getting enough vitamin C, they tend to think of citrus fruits like oranges, mangos and grapefruits,” said Williams. “Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C, but believe it or not, ounce for ounce, bell peppers contain more Vitamin C than an orange. 

These humble little fruits are also immune-boosting superfoods. 

Blueberries contain flavonoids—a type of antioxidant that can help reduce damage to cells and boost your immune system. In addition, blueberries have plenty of vitamins, including vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. 

Blueberries are great on their own or in an immune-boosting smoothie with other healthy ingredients. 

Green tea
“Green tea has been used for thousands of years as a type of natural medicine,” said Williams. “One of the reasons researchers think it’s so good for you is because it contains a substance known as catechin, which helps maintain your immune system, as well as a powerful antioxidant.  

Hot green tea with honey is a common choice, but tea can also be blended into healthy fruit and vegetable smoothies.

While they may not be everyone’s favorite food, there is evidence that suggests that mushrooms can help boost your immune system. 

Nutrition benefits of mushrooms include the ability to boost the immune system and combat many diseases by providing important vitamins, minerals and enzymes. 

Mushrooms contain vitamin D, which can help keep your immune system strong. Varieties like shiitake, maitake and reishi are particularly good for staying healthy during cold and flu season.

Nuts, particularly almonds, contain many different types of nutrients, such as protein and vitamin E. While vitamin E isn’t as important to a strong immune system as vitamin C, it is still needed to keep your immune system healthy. A half-cup of almonds provides your daily recommended amount of vitamin E.

Almond is a highly nutritional nut and a rich source of vitamin E, calcium, phosphorous, iron and magnesium. It also contains zinc, selenium, copper and niacin. Compared to all other nuts, they are richer in nutrients and beneficial components.

Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are packed full of vitamins A, C and E as well as antioxidants and fiber. Some vegetables in the cruciferous family are broccoli, bok choy, kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts. These vegetables are healthiest raw or lightly cooked. The combination of vitamins and antioxidants from cruciferous vegetables helps boost your immune system.

Marianne Williams, RDN, is a dietitian at Geisinger. To schedule an appointment, please call 800-275-6401.
A display for healthy foods