As temperatures begin to plummet and darkness spans the horizon by early evening, it’s time to safeguard our immune systems in preparation for another year filled with sore throats and irritating coughs. While flu shots are a good way to protect the body against the flu, they can’t guarantee us a sickness-free winter. So what happens if you feel flu symptoms coming on? In addition to seeking medical care, you can load your refrigerator and pantry with immune-boosting edibles. Implementing proper nutrition can not only speed up your recovery, but also boost your immune system and ease some of those flu symptoms.
The first food group to turn to when you feel you’re coming down with something is protein. Protein keeps the body strong and provides a surplus of healing ingredients. Foods such as chicken, turkey, nuts, and seeds are all solid examples of foods to integrate into your dietary regimen. According to WebMD, “The FDA recommends that adults eat 50 grams of protein per day. By eating foods high in protein, we also get the benefit of other healing nutrients such as vitamins B6 and B12, both of which contribute to a healthy immune system.” If you’re vegetarian, aim to consume beans, spinach, or enriched cereals. These will fulfill your protein requirements while boosting your immune system.
Now it’s time to think green. There’s a reason your mom always told you to eat your vegetables! Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower contain fiber, vitamin C, folate, calcium, and glutathione; all powerful immune boosters that have been noted with infection-fighting abilities. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a board-certified family physician, author of Eat to Live, and nutritional researcher — “Isothiocyanates [found in cruciferous vegetables] support the immune system and have antimicrobial properties. Cruciferous vegetable phytochemicals may enhance interferon activity, which is an important component of the body’s antiviral response.”
Lastly, when in doubt, stick to the age-old remedy of homemade chicken soup. According to Mayo Clinic, “[Chicken soup] acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that participate in the body's inflammatory response”. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, possibly helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining. Skip the store brands that are often loaded with sodium and lack the ingredients necessary for recovery. Instead, opt for homemade or organic brands.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This powerful liquid creates an alkaline environment that helps kill bacteria and viruses. WebMD suggests creating, “a thick, viscous gargle made with honey and apple cider vinegar.”
The age-old common cold remedy is a powerful immune booster, loaded with protein, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Originally published on November 18, 2014.