6 foods to boost your immune system this cold and flu season
Eat well to stay healthy.
While there are a few different ways to fight against the common cold and the flu, your diet is one of your greatest assets.
“In cold weather and in dry air, it’s very easy for colds and the flu to spread,” says Thiviyanath Sellathurai, MD, family medicine doctor at Geisinger. “You can try to limit your contact with people who are sick, but sometimes that’s 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 your 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 6 foods that can help boost your immunity and keep you healthy through cold and flu season.
1. 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,” says Dr. Sellathurai. “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.
3. Green tea
“Green tea has been used for thousands of years as a type of natural medicine,” says Dr. Sellathurai. “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.
4. MushroomsWhile they may not be everyone’s favorite food, there is evidence that suggests mushrooms can help boost your immune system.
Nutritional 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.
5. AlmondsNuts, 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.
6. 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.
By adding just a few of these into your diet, you can help to boost your immune system year-round.
Meet Thiviyanath Sellathurai, MD
Learn the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet
Get your flu shot at Geisinger