Eat the Flu Away with These Immune-Boosting Foods
Don't worry: this isn’t just a "why you should eat more oranges" lecture. Health specialist Lori Shemek (who also knows a thing or two about dieting) has shared some foods beyond the orange that will help keep your immune system at its strongest and the flu away. Are you a meat lover? Good! Keep eating those proteins, because they’re an essential part of your body’s defense system. Love garlic just as much as the next vampire-slayer? Then you’ll be delighted to hear that it’s not only a great tool for flavor when cooking, but it’s also a powerhouse of antioxidants. Not only do we tell you what to eat to stay healthy, but tell you how to use the ingredients, too, with recipes for each one.
We may not be groundbreaking scientists and doctors, but we Cook editors know our food, so check out these ten immune-boosting ones and recipes for each so that you can start eating the flu away one bite at a time.
We were surprised (and pleasantly surprised, for that matter) to hear that protein is on Shemek’s list of foods to boost the immune system. "Protein is an essential part of your body’s defense system," she says. "For example, the amino acids glutamine and arginine are considered as nutrition therapy in pre-surgery patients because of their ability to stimulate the immune system. Sources of protein include seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds."
Try this Slow-Roast Chicken with Tarragon and Peas for a dose of protein.
Oranges aren’t the only vitamin C sheriffs in town, according to Shemek. "[Red bell] peppers are very high in vitamin C; in fact, they have almost twice the amount of this vitamin than most fruits and vegetables," she says. "With red bell peppers, you will help increase your antibody production — key in bolstering immune activity."
Try this Sautéed Broccoli with Yellow and Red Bell Peppers recipe to get your fill on the flu-fighting food.
Many studies have shown that antibiotics aren’t as helpful as we’d like when it comes to fighting the flu, but fortunately garlic is. Think of garlic as the new antibiotic, says Shemek, because unlike most antibiotics, which kill both good and bad bacteria, garlic has a chemical called allicin, a very powerful antioxidant that helps destroy only the harmful bacteria that feeds viruses.
Warm up this flu season with this Creamy White Turnip Soup with Roasted Garlic Recipe.
Just like with carrots, pumpkins get their orange color from beta-carotene, which is a great source of vitamin A, says Shemek. A good supply of vitamin A helps with cellular communication within your immune system, making sure it’s alert and ready for when the flu virus strikes.
While most of us already know that oranges are a great way to fight off colds and the flu, Shemek tells us that other citrus fruits should not be overlooked as well. The more vitamin C the better, she says, because it helps with the body’s production of white blood cells to help prevent infection.
This light and healthy Grapefruit, Fennel, and Feta Salad is an easy and delicious way to get your dose of Vitamin C.
Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene, which aids the body’s natural defenses against harmful free radicals, says Shemek. And, even better for us, cooking tomatoes is the best way to get the most lycopene out of them.
This Slow-Roasted Tomatoes recipe is perfect to make and have on hand whenever you're looking for a dose of lycopene.
Along with other types of protein, dark turkey meat is the best type you can consume because it contains more health-boosting vitamins and minerals than any other cut. As turkey is a good source of zinc and selenium, which boost your body’s defense system and increase production of white blood cells, eating the dark meat will ensure you get the most of these virus-fighting vitamins.
The turkey legs in this Red Wine Roasted Turkey Legs recipe have the perfect crispy skin from roasting, and did you know red wine is considered an antioxidant too?
Like all cold-water fish, wild salmon is a great source of omega-3 fats, says Shemek. These are highly effective with the immune system because they increase the activity of macrophages — white blood cells that annihilate bacteria in your body.
Eat wild salmon in its purest form with this Wild Salmon Ceviche recipe.
Kefir, or fermented milk, helps create healthy gut microbes in your body, which make up a large part of your body’s defense system. "In fact, your digestive system is 80 percent of your immune system," says Shemek, so the consumption of kefir not only improves immune-cell function but builds a fortress in your intestinal tract against bugs.
Looking for a delicious way to use kefir? Use it as a leavening agent in this Homemade Pizza Dough recipe by substituting the water and yeast with kefir.
Mushrooms are extremely potent in many immunosupportive agents such as macrophages, T-cells, natural killer cells, and interleukin-1 and 2. These virus-fighting agents stimulate the immune system and activate certain virus-fighting cells in your body.
This Orzo with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe is the perfect winter dish to fill up on because it's flu-fighting and comforting.