- Including certain foods into your diet may help support your immune system during cold and flu system.
- While no one food will guarantee that you will stay healthy and flu-free, focusing on certain nutrients like vitamin D and zinc may keep your body in fighting shape.
When October comes along and the weather begins to cool, many people think about pumpkin spice lattes and cozy sweater weather. But this month also means the start of cold and flu season—and a PSL’s nutrition profile won’t exactly help fend off infection.
Since many of us have been wearing masks, social distancing, working from home, and practicing other strategies to minimize the spread of COVID-19, we may see less transmission of other respiratory infectious diseases, like the flu, according to a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But these practices are not a magic bullet to perfect health. Frequently, poor nutrient status is associated with inflammation and oxidative stress, which in turn can negatively impact the immune system.
Certain dietary choices may help support a healthy immune system to keep your body in fighting shape in case it does get infected by a common cold, the flu, or other illnesses. Along with proper hand washing, quality sleep, and other positive lifestyle choices, including these foods in your diet may help support your immune system during cold and flu season.
Legumes include chickpeas, dried peas, and lentils. Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, registered dietitian and of Owner Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati, Ohio, advises adding legumes or lentils to a diet for an immune system boost. She explains that these foods contain prebiotic fibers that help support live probiotics, specifically lactobacillus, to prevent infection and reduce inflammation.
Fermented foods contain live probiotics, and include kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir. Probiotics are live bacteria that offer a health benefit to the host – and in this case, the host is you!
Lindsey Pine, MS, RDN, a California-based registered dietitian and founder of Tasty Balance Nutrition recommends consuming fermented foods “because approximately 70% of our immune system resides in the gut. By keeping the gut healthy and including probiotic-containing foods, you’re helping to protect the immune system.”
“Turmeric contains curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and protects your body from harmful compounds,” Alena Kharlamenko, MS,RS, a New York City-based registered dietitian, tells Verywell.
If you’re using turmeric, make sure to eat it with black pepper—it helps your body absorb it better.
Kharlamenko also recommends that people who want to support a healthy immune system add oysters into their diet. “Oysters and other shellfish like shrimp and lobster can also do wonders for your immune health,” she says. “They are packed with zinc, which helps protect your body from viruses and bacteria.”
Salmon provides your body with important immune-supporting nutrients like vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, along with a health boost of protein, which is crucial for optimal antibody production. Specifically, choosing Chilean-farmed salmon gives you more omega-3s compared to other types of fish, with no mercury or antibiotics.
100% Orange Juice With Added Vitamin D
Orange juice is chock-full of immune-supporting nutrients, including vitamin C. Choosing orange juice fortified with vitamin D gives some extra immune support, as adequate intake of this nutrient has been linked to reduced risk of respiratory tract infections, including the flu.
Adding crushed garlic to pasta sauces or including chopped garlic to salad dressings may help ward off illness during cold and flu season in a natural way. When garlic is crushed or chopped, a compound called allicin is produced. This compound has been shown to reduce inflammation and offer immune health benefits. A single trial suggested that garlic may prevent occurrences of the common cold, but more studies are needed to validate this finding.
What This Means For You
Including any of these foods in your diet during cold and flu season may help support a healthy immune system in a natural way.