There’s something to be said about taking your vitamins, washing your hands and drinking a lot of water throughout the winter, a time that is classically perceived as the cold and flu months.
But if we put some extra thought into what we eat, adding or bumping up the amount of specific immune boosting foods, we can add an extra boost to the cold-fighting efforts. After all, our bodies tend to absorb the vitamins we ingest through food more readily than those that we take as supplements.
This winter, think about adding these some immune-boosting superstars to your menu:
Citrus: Most people pump up their vitamin C intake after a cold has already hit. Instead, add citrus food to your daily diet, as a sweet treat, but also a healthy daily addition of vitamin C to boost the immune system and ward off a cold. Vitamin C is not stored in the body, so eating it throughout the day ensures high levels that are easily absorbed. Try squeezing lemon or lime into your water, have a grapefruit with breakfast or an orange with lunch.
Navel oranges are on sale now through January 31.
Yogurt/Kefir: Along with calcium and protein, the key ingredient here is the probiotics, or live cultures. Probiotics have been proven to help balance out the bacteria in the gut, killing off the harmful bacteria and cutting down inflammation in the intestines. This in turn lowers the chance of the harmful bacteria entering the bloodstream. Yogurt and kefir can be very high in sugar, so examine labels and also make sure they say “live and active cultures.”
Broccoli & Kale: As members of the same family, these bright green vegetables actually contain more vitamin C than an orange and also have the added benefit of a slew of other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Try a rubbed kale salad, which helps to break it down without cooking it, and cook the broccoli for as little time as possible so it retains most vitamins.
Garlic: A little garlic breath never hurt anyone, right? Add this spicy vegetable to your meals for a flavor kick and a grandmother’s favorite immune booster. Garlic has been proven to boost the number of T-cells, those that fight viruses, due to a compound called allicin. Along with that, it’s said to fight fatigue and reduce blood pressure and it contains a number of other vitamins and minerals. If you dare… try eating one to two raw cloves per day.
Green/Black Tea: Both varieties are packed full of antioxidants that have been proven to protect the body from certain types of cancer. Some of these chemicals in black and green tea, known as alkylamines, have also been proven to boost immunity by showing disease-fighting immune cells how to fight off harmful bacteria that can cause illness.
Chicken Soup: Good for your soul? Sure. But it’s also good for the immune system. It’s not just folklore; granny's chicken soup probably did help battle a cold. Poultry has high levels of vitamin B-6 which can boost the production of red blood cells. But it’s the combination of the ingredients of a classic chicken soup that really boosts the immunity, so don’t skimp on the garlic, ginger, onions and herbs.
Apples: An apple a day, right? There’s a reason for the saying, and it has to do with soluble fiber and powerful antioxidants. Soluble fiber, also found in some nuts and oats, has anti-inflammatory benefits that can improve cell health, which in turn helps our bodies fight illness. The antioxidants also promote healthy cell activity. So chomp down on one today.