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Eat These Foods to Fend Off the Flu

This season, win the fight against germs by supercharging your natural defenses.

Most of us already know the basics when it comes to warding off a wintertime cold or flu—from excessive hand washing to loading up on vitamin C and getting plenty of rest, as well as keeping stress at bay. However, incorporating these foods and spices into your daily meal plan will play as much of an integral role in keeping you healthy, all season long.

Greek Yogurt. “Yogurt is packed with probiotics, which are live active cultures, or good bacteria, that help keep up your defences,” says Candice Kumai, a Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef and author of the upcoming Clean Green Drinks, Cook Yourself Sexy and Pretty Delicious and a judge on Iron Chef America. Can’t plan to eat yogurt every day? Try a probiotic supplement, too. “Probiotics are known to boost the immune system by supporting digestive function and gut health and helping to stave off, and fight flu symptoms—and taking a good-quality probiotic supplement, especially in the fall and winter months when our immune systems are in overdrive is so important, says Theri Griego Raby, MD, founder and medical director of the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern.

Fermented Foods. Add kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh and kimchi, to your grocery list. “Eating these foods every day is not only great for weight loss, and balancing pH levels, but also aiding in digestion and helping to destroy and inhibit the growth of bad bacteria,” says Kumai.

Zinc. Think of oysters, roast beef, crab, lobster, dark chocolate, and peanuts as natural Zicam. “These can help to regulate immune responses, attack infected or cancerous cells and alleviate the common cold,” says Kumai.

Garlic. “It’s an extremely good natural immunity booster,” says Kumai. “Garlic is full of selenium, manganese, vitamin B6 and anti-inflammatory agents that help to fight bacteria, protect your heart and of course is a good old remedy to fight the common cold,” says Kumai.

Avocado. Need another reason to order guacamole? “They contain heart-healthy and monounsaturated fat—and this type of fat promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder, assisting in proper elimination of toxins from the body and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K,” says Kumai. “As well as vitamin E, folate, panthotehenic acid, fiber, potassium.” Translation: it’s like an anti-cold multi-vitamin.

Super Greens. “Kale, spinach, parsley, celery all contain chlorophyll, which helps to-boost to your digestive tract, rids the body of harmful environmental toxins and aids the liver,” says Kumai. And the less toxins your body has, the more equipt it is to fight off any germs that come its way.

Ginger. “Fresh ginger activates T-cells, immune cells that destroy virus-infected cells,” explains Griego Raby. “It inhibits mucous production and helps clear congestion so while you want to try and cook with ginger on a regular basis year round, do so even more consistently in cold and flu season.”

Sweet potatoes. “Rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A, sweet potatoes aid the immune systen,” says Griego Raby. “They also help maintain mucosal surfaces in our respiratory tract, digestive tract, and skin to keep microbes out of our bodies—aim for once week and more often if you’re feeling run down.”

Protein. Along with building muscle and keeping your appetite in check, protein can also keep you cold-free. “Protein is vital for many biological processes including immune function,” says Griego Raby. There are the obvious sources such as meat, fish and eggs but also plant-based options include beans, nuts, seeds, rice, quinoa, and corn. “Quinoa is a complete protein that’s also gluten free and full of amino acids, which helps cleanse and detoxify the body and keep your immunity up,” explains Kumai.

Elderberry Juice. “Elderberry juice suppresses replication of some influenza viruses and increases levels of viral antibodies that block the flu virus because it is rich in anthocyanins, which enhance cytokine production, proteins that regulate the immune system’s response to a virus,” says Griego Raby. Not sure how to use it? Add it into a smoothie for breakfast or an afternoo pick-me-up.

Peppers. You may think that an orange has the highest levels of vitamin C, however, peppers, particularly the orange and red kind are up there, too (and can be easier to incorporate into a few meals a day). “Peppers can reduce the length and severity of symptoms in a viral upper respiratory tract infection,” explains Greigo Raby.

Salmon. “Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D,” says Griego Raby. In a study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, omega 3s helped to strengthen the immune system by enhancing the function of white blood cells. “And vitamin D is important to help our immune systems, kill harmful bacteria and viruses, however most Americans are deficient,” says Greigo Raby, who suggests eating mostly cold water fish, which are richest in EPA and DHA, including salmon as well as anchovies, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacoretuna. But be mindful of where they come from: “Farm-raised fish do not normally have as much omega 3 fatty acids as they do not eat the same diet as weild fish, or swim in as cold of water as their wild counter parts,” says Griego Raby, who says to aim to get it in your diet around twice weekly.

Turmeric. “Turmeric is best known for giving Indian curry its distinct color and taste—it is rich in a compound called curcumin and this delicious yellow seasoning has a high antioxidant value and is a powerful anti-inflammatory,” says Griego Raby. “Research has confirmed that curcumin can increase the immune system’s protein levels and help the body to fight bacteria and viruses including those that cause tuberculosis.”

Source: Elle Magazine