With the vibrant colors of autumn also comes cold and flu season. Abrupt changes in temperature (chilly nights and the occasional still-warm day) seem to throw our immune systems out of whack, and in colder weather, we spend more time indoors, increasing our chances of catching a virus from a sniffling family member or coworker. A cold is a mild respiratory illness brought by one of as many as 100 different viruses. Flu — short for Influenza — is a more serious infection caused by a smaller number of viruses, whose strains vary from year to year; unlike the cold, flu can last for many weeks, and may result in hospitalization and even death.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as one in five Americans fall victim to the flu each year, while the number of colds suffered in the U.S. could be greater than a billion.
Modern medicine has yet to come up with a cure for the common cold, and flu shots, while generally effective, are not foolproof. In order to prevent these seasonal ailments requires some, think-ahead diet planning. No one food can remedy a cold or a flu, but a combination of the right vitamins, minerals, proteins, and anti-oxidants will boost your immune system enough to make a strong defense. Harvard Health Publications recommends focusing on getting the proper amounts of vitamins, A, B6, C, and E, and minerals such as selenium, iron, and zinc.
As always, the main foundation of any diet should be in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other complex carbohydrates, but there are some very specific foods with either high amounts of important nutrients or specific antiviral properties that can be especially effective at preventing cold and flu viruses from overrunning you.