Immunity-Boosting Foods: Beat Cold and Flu Season With Your Diet

It’s that time of the year again: cold and flu season. If you haven’t yet succumbed to the coughing, sneezing, runny nose and scratchy throat of a wintertime cold, chances are good that you will. Most adults get between two and four colds per year, and most of those colds affect us in the winter months. Did you know, though, that you can reduce your chances of catching a cold if you focus on eating immunity-boosting foods this winter? Here’s a list of foods that you can incorporate into your diet to raise your odds of getting through the winter with minimal sickness.

Chicken Soup

Image Courtesy Juan Calderón

The next time you roast a whole chicken, try boiling the bones in water with a splash of apple cider vinegar to help draw the nutrients into the broth. Refrigerate overnight and skim the solid fat off in the morning. Make the stock into a delicious soup with lots of garlic and a little chili pepper, and you’ll be on your way to beating the beginning of a cold in no time! The hot broth and the chili pepper will make your nose run, clearing out any congestion, and the garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Your grandma was right; chicken soup is as good for the body as it is for the soul, especially during cold and flu season. (If you don’t have time to make homemade chicken soup, the canned kind is just as good. Just watch those sodium levels, as they tend to contain more salt than is necessary for taste.)

Fatty Fish

Try to eat fish once or twice per week. Salmon, mackerel and herring are excellent choices, because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients strengthen the respiratory system, leading to fewer colds and infections. They can also reduce inflammation and reduce your risk of acquiring contagious illnesses. While you’re indulging in food from the sea, add a few oysters or clams; their selenium can stomp out cold and flu germs.

Yogurt and Kefir

Eating yogurt and kefir (and also fermented veggies like sauerkraut) fills your gut with beneficial live active cultures, also known as probiotics. These nutritional superstars are actually beneficial bacteria. These good bacteria crowd out the bad bacteria and keep things running smoothly throughout your body. As a side benefit, yogurt adds both calcium and vitamin D to your diet.

Citrus Fruits

Downing a glass of orange juice or eating half a grapefruit each morning can give your body a nice boost of vitamin C, which can help prevent colds and the flu. It’s best to space out your vitamin C consumption throughout the day, as it tends to peak after several hours. If you aren’t a huge fan of citrus, you can enjoy colorful bell peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes, kiwifruit, broccoli or papaya instead. Or you can ask your doctor about whether a vitamin C supplement is appropriate for you this winter.

By filling your plate with lots of fruits, veggies, and lean protein sources like yogurt and fish, you can go a long way toward achieving better health, including lowering your risk of catching a cold this winter.