You’ve stocked up on cold and flu medicine and have enough hand sanitizer and tissues to last for decades, but have you considered how your diet affects your health? Most people opt for orange juice and chicken noodle soup when they feel the sniffles coming on, but those aren’t the only foods that can help fend off disease. Vitamins A, C and E as well as other nutrients are important in boosting immunity and are found in a variety of foods like carrots, almonds and bell peppers.
The key to staying healthy, advises Eric Plasker, DC, author of The 100 Year Lifestyle, is to make healthy foods part of your daily life. “It’s important not to be crisis-motivated: Don’t wait until you’re sick and use foods as drugs,” Dr. Plasker says. “They need to be a regular part of your diet.” Sheana Brighton, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Illinois, stresses including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet because they contain phytochemicals, which are thought to have health-protective qualities. She says, “They may have similar effects as antioxidants. They boost the immune system, provide anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties, and promote cell repair.”
Below, check out 10 flu-fighting foods that boost your immunity, help fight infection and more. Plus, we’ve also included tasty recipes that contain each of these super ingredients, so you can start battling the season’s worst colds tonight.
1. Red Bell Peppers
Savvy flu-fighters always increase vitamin C intake when they feel illness coming on, and with good reason: It not only helps fight off illness, but can decrease the severity and duration of symptoms. But chugging OJ isn’t your only option; tasty and versatile, red bell peppers contain twice as much immune-enhancing vitamin C as oranges and work in a variety of dishes. Try one of these recipes: Sausage and Pepper Pies or Chicken with Peppers & Cauliflower.
Jennifer Zartarian, ND, Wellness and Research Coordinator at Long Island College Hospital in New York City, says yellow and orange veggies, like carrots, contain beta-carotene. This compound is converted to vitamin A in the body, which helps increase T-cells and boost immunity. Carrots are great in side dishes. Try one of these recipes: Roasted Ginger Carrots or Mashed Carrots & Rutabaga.
This popular nut is a good source of vitamin E, which is a disease-fighting antioxidant. Grab a handful for your midafternoon snack or use them to flavor main dishes. Try one of these recipes: Wasabi Almond Catfish with Roasted Baby Squash or Paprika-Almond Chicken Breasts.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Like carrots, sweet potatoes are an orange-colored food that contains beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body and has been shown to help fight respiratory infections. Use sweet potatoes in soups, salads and side dishes. Try one of these recipes: Mexican Pork & Sweet Potato Stew or Ham and Sweet Potato Salad.
5. Chicken Soup
No surprise that this common cold remedy made our list, but do you know why moms having been ladling it out for years? Chicken soup does a body good because of the healthy veggies in the broth (like carrots). It also has mild anti-inflammatory properties, which may help decrease mucus production and throat swelling. But one of the main benefits of this winter staple may just be how it makes us feel. “It’s a comfort food that makes the soul feel good, and what’s good for the soul is good for the body,” says Dr. Plasker. “It also temporarily raises your body temperature, which can help you fight infection.” Try one of these recipes: Chicken Noodle Soup or Spring Vegetable & Chicken Stew.
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