'Tis the season for a cough, sniffle, or if you’re one of the unlucky ones, a bout with the flu. Instead of turning to your nearby drug store to keep you out of the doctor’s office, look no further than your kitchen. Stock up on the following five powerful immune system boosters to keep your sick days saved for playing in the snow.
- Citrus fruits- Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which is thought to increase the production of white blood cells in the body, the key to fighting off infections. Vitamin C may also reduce the duration of common cold symptoms and improve immune system function. Because the body doesn’t store vitamin C, it is necessary to consume this nutrient daily for continued health. Popular citrus fruits include grapefruit, lemon, limes, oranges, tangerines, and clementines.
- Broccoli- This supercharged vegetable is packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, and E, along with antioxidants, and fiber. Try to prepare this veggie with as little cooking as possible to preserve its nutrients. Grab a container of hummus and dunk away.
- Ginger- You’ve probably heard of ginger’s use to aid upset stomachs and nausea. The ginger root has many additional benefits such as being a great source of antioxidants. Ginger may help to decrease inflammation and chronic pain and it may possess cholesterol-lowering properties. Add grated ginger to a stir fry or peel and steep it whole in hot water with a bit of lemon to not only hydrate your body, but to put you on a path to feeling better.
- Yogurt- Probiotics found in yogurt and other fermented foods (such as sauerkraut and miso) are known as “good bacteria” for your gut and may ease the severity of colds. These probiotics naturally improve your immune system function and your digestion. Yogurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, which helps to regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against disease. Studies show that people with low vitamin D levels may be more likely to get the flu or common colds. Look for yogurt that has “live and active cultures” on the label and try to get the plain variety with no added sugar. Sweeten it with fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey.
- Chicken Soup- It turns out that your mom was onto something when she fed you chicken soup as a child when you weren’t feeling so hot. Studies show that hot chicken soup is more effective than plain water at making your nose run, helping to rid the body of bacteria and viruses. Hydrating chicken soup also contains a chemical called carnosine that can protect your body from the flu virus. Load up your soup with plenty of chicken as it is not only high in protein but also contains vitamin B-6 that is vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells.
It is important to recognize that the immune system is complex, and eating a variety of vitamins and minerals is just one way to support immune health. Be sure to include other lifestyle strategies to strengthen the immune system such as exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, and minimizing stress. Incorporating the above immune system boosters and tips into your daily regimen will help to keep you healthy and energized through the dreaded cold and flu season!