Getting sick, whether it’s the sniffles, the flu, or a stomach bug you can’t shake, is NO FUN. Who wants to put a damper on a great start to the new year by getting sick? Certainly not us! Fortunately, there are things that you can do to minimize your risk of getting sick during cold and flu season, and many of them have to do with what and how you eat.
Here are six important foods, nutrients, and ways to eat to help keep colds and flu away. But first, don’t underestimate the power of washing your hands frequently with warm soapy water. Do this BEFORE you eat!
1. Don’t crash diet: Restricting yourself to a very low calorie diet can lower your body’s defenses and make you more prone to getting sick. Skip the two week juice cleanse and opt for a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks made of whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins.
2. Eat some citrus: When mother nature created citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and clementines, she definitely had cold and flu season in mind. Citrus is in season during the winter months so it’s easy to find and affordable. Aside from being sweet, delicious, and satisfying, it’s loaded with the antioxidant vitamin C to help keep your immune system strong.
3. Get your D: Include vitamin D-rich foods like salmon, light tuna, sardines, milk, and vitamin D fortified foods like cereal, yogurt, and orange juice in your diet. The research on vitamin D shows that there are many reasons to get more of this important “sunshine” vitamin. In fact, some studies in mice show that a diet low in vitamin D might make you more susceptible to certain types of flu infection. In winter, especially in the northern latitudes, the angle of the sun and UV rays are not optimal, which means you don’t make much vitamin D in your skin. For this reason, getting your daily D from food and/or supplements in the winter is important.
4. Ward off vampires: Besides adding tons of (nearly) calorie-free flavor to foods, garlic contains a sulfur compound called allicin, which may help fight against bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections. Since allicin in found within the small cells of the garlic, the more finely you chop it, the more allicin is released! If you’re going to heat the garlic, let it sit, chopped, for about ten minutes before using – research has shown that more allicin is preserved during heating when the chopped garlic sits beforehand.
5.Go green (in the tea department): While most kinds of tea are made from the same leaves, white and green teas contain higher levels of catechins (flavonoids thought to be responsible for tea’s antiviral properties) than other teas because of the way they’re dried. Sip on a cup of green tea to get the flavonoid benefits in addition to warming up (which may help ease stress too!) Add a slice of lemon for some extra immune boosting oomph!
6. Gimme a Q!: Quercitin is one of the compounds found in plants that is neither a vitamin nor mineral but benefits your health by acting as an antioxidant. Apples, onions, broccoli, and tomatoes are very good sources of quercitin and are great foods to include in your diet to boost immune health and keep calories in check. Apples, broccoli, and tomatoes are also good sources of vitamin C, another immune-boosting antioxidant.
We’re planning to make lots of garlic-y dressings for veggies and to stay toasty warm with mugs of green tea. What are you going to make with these cold and flu fighting foods?