We hate to break it to you, but it’s officially fall, which means winter is right around the corner. And depending on where you live, the cold temps might already be in full swing. Cold weather often comes with cold and flu season, too, a sad side effect to the approaching holidays, snow-filled days, and opportunities to cozy up next to a fireplace.
Don’t let cold-season sideline you from the snuggly temps that are approaching! Luckily, certain foods can help stifle those sneezes, runny noses, and yucky flus we’re unfortunately vulnerable to catch as the seasons shift.
Here are nine foods that will help strengthen your immune system during the cooler weather months. They’re also quite delicious and versatile, so you shouldn’t have a problem fitting them onto your plates and into your diet.
Eat This, Not That
If you feel a cold coming on, soup is a great way to combat feeling crumby. In addition to it feeling comforting and warm, you can add so many different things to the pot that have immune-boosting qualities. Chicken noodle soup is a classic, and for good reason — chicken is filled with zinc and iron, and carrots are rich vitamin C. These are all nutrients your body needs to fight off toxins and germs. The broth also helps secrete mucus which protects the body against new germs coming in. An ultimate immune boosting soup includes ingredients that we’ll mention below, but we’ll tell you them now: kale, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, turmeric, and garlic. Lastly, it goes without saying that soup simply helps soothe your body.
Mushrooms are often thought of as medicinal since they’re naturally grown and have a lot of amazing health benefits. In addition to keeping your immune system in check, they’re also amazing at boosting brain power, packing a punch of antioxidants into your body, and even helping with your hormones. There are a lot of different mushrooms out there. Skip the white button ones you often see in the grocery aisle and choose ones that are more “exotic” sounding that contain potent phytonutrients. These include mushrooms like shiitake, reishi, enoki, and maitake. You can add them to soup, stir fry’s, salads, or sautee them in olive oil and enjoy as a side dish!
Green tea has a laundry list of health benefits, one of which is boosting our immunity. Tea is filled with polyphenols, which are plant antioxidants that help protect your body against colds and flus, and can even speed up the healing process if you’re already sick. One of the most powerful parts of green tea is a compound called EEGCG. Not only does it help speed up your metabolism, it also wards off infections. And here’s an amazing bonus: EGCGs have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. And just like soup, tea is warm and cozy to consume, and will make you feel good simply by sipping it.
Vitamin C for the win! Vitamin C is important for cold prevention because it stimulates the function of your white blood cells that attack foreign bacteria and viruses that enter our bodies. In other words, Vitamin C helps reduce our chances of getting sick. Other citrus fruits, like grapefruit, lemons, and limes, are packed with vitamins as well. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get the vitamins you need; just one orange contains 120 percent of our recommended dietary intake. Slice up an orange and eat it on the go, add it to an Asian salad, or throw it in a smoothie! Just don’t only rely on orange juice as your source of Vitamin C; fruit juices contain a lot of sugar that your body doesn’t really need.
The sweet thing about honey is it can help soothe your throat and keep coughing at a minimum. Plus, the phytonutrients in raw honey are known for having antibacterial and anti-viral properties that can give your immune system a healthy boost and ward off colds and flus. Honey also provides a natural shot of energy, and its antioxidants can fight bad cholesterol and free radicals in the body. Add a spoonful to your morning oatmeal, use it as a sweetener in coffee or tea, or add some to a morning slice of toast!
Garlic is filled with potent antioxidants that block germs and keep your body protected. This pungent-tasting bulb also has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties that prevent sickness. The superstar is allicin, garlic’s key compound that has all those potent and germ-fighting properties. The best way to capture all of garlic’s health benefits is to eat it raw. While they might be too potent for most, you can try chopping it up and adding olive oil and salt for a raw garlic “dip.” Another option that’s a little easier to swallow is adding raw garlic to homemade guacamole or hummus. Of course, you can cook it too, adding sauteed garlic to nearly any savory dish for a burst of flavor while fighting off pesky germs.
Similar to oranges and other citrus fruits, sweet potatoes have high amounts of vitamin C. That said, sweet potatoes also contain a large amount of beta-carotene, which scientists say helps increase help increase “T cell activity,” which help fight infection. Lastly, Vitamin A is also found in sweet potatoes, which strengthen our mucus membranes found in the nose and throat. You can bake, roast, or pan fry potatoes. They’re also great in soups and on salads. And if you’re feeling really creative, use them as a base in a homemade veggie burger!
Ginger is spicy, warming, and full of flavor. It also breaks down mucus in our bodies which helps clear the respiratory tract and feel less congested. Ginger also contains those well-known phytochemicals that fight off viruses and keep colds far away. You can make your own ginger tea with raw ginger or add it to virtually any stir-fry or soup. And if you have a sweet tooth, treat yo’self and make an immune-boosting sweet potato pie baked with ginger. Extra points if you use honey as your sweetener!
Last but not least: yogurt. Yogurt is filled with probiotics which is “good bacteria” your body needs to ward away bad bacteria in your body. That bad bacteria can easily make you sick by weakening your immune system. Just beware of yogurts that are filled with added sugars. The easiest thing you can do is buy unsweetened yogurt and add a touch of sweetness with immune-boosting honey.
Nobody likes getting sick. While sometimes it might feel inevitable, there are natural things you can do for your body that’ll help protect you from feeling crummy. In addition to your diet, also make sure to stay super hydrated, avoid processed foods, and get a good amount of sleep every night!