As cold and flu season approaches and COVID-19 infections continue to spike, we're all on heightened alert. While the best thing you can do to prevent illness is to wash your hands (and get your annual flu shot!), some foods can help to boost your health and immunity.
The 17 immune-boosting foods we've listed below can help strengthen your body's natural defense system. And while you’re keeping yourself healthy, be sure to avoid these 40 habits that make you sick and fat.
1. Ginger tea
When it comes to treating a common cold, ginger is one of the best foods for relief. In a review published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, researchers summarized that ginger’s potent anti-inflammatory properties were key in the root’s powers to combat a cold or flu. Because inflammation can affect your body’s immune response, anti-inflammatory ginger can play a key role in boosting your immunity.
Oranges are packed with vitamin C, an essential nutrient when you’re feeling under the weather. According to a review conducted by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, at the Australian National University, vitamin C is helpful in preventing the common cold for people exposed to sickness-inducing environments, such as cold weather, and can help lower the duration and severity of a cold.
When you’re feeling sick, good ol’ H2O can be one of the most helpful drinks to sip. Staying hydrated can help loosen trapped mucus. Try drinking at least the recommended eight glasses of water a day to keep yourself fully hydrated since we tend to lose more fluids when we’re sick.
4. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is filled with sickness-fighting probiotics and is packed with more protein than regular yogurt. A meta-analysis published in the journal Korean Journal of Family Medicine found that probiotics can help to prevent and treat the common cold. The researchers discovered that people who ate probiotics daily had a lower risk of catching a cold than those who did not eat any probiotic-rich food.
Blueberries are filled with antioxidants that can help treat and prevent coughs and colds. According to research conducted by the University of Auckland, consuming flavonoids — a class of antioxidants found in blueberries — made adults 33 percent less likely to catch a cold than those who did not eat flavonoid-rich foods or supplements daily.
6. Ginseng tea
Ginseng tea is popular for more reasons than its delicious taste. Namely, the tea has been used as a treatment for upper respiratory tract infections (aka the common cold). A review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal noted that ginseng has been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms of colds and influenza. However, the researchers noted that more research needs to be conducted to fully support ginseng’s immunity-boosting claims.
Tomatoes are also a great food to eat when you’re sick due to their high concentration of vitamin C. Just one medium tomato contains a little over 16 milligrams of vitamin C, which is a proven fuel to your body’s immune system.
In a German study published by Medizinische Monatsschrift fur Pharmazeuten, vitamin C was shown to be a vital part of the strength of the body’s phagocytes and t-cells, two major components of the immune system. The researchers also noted that a deficiency in this nutrient can lead to a weaker immune system and a lower resistance to certain pathogens that can lead to illness.
8. Wild salmon
Wild salmon is filled with zinc, a nutrient that has been proven to assist with reducing common cold symptoms. If you want your family, and especially your children, to avoid a cold this winter season, then you should be giving them zinc-rich foods.
The Journal of Family Practice published a study examining the effects of zinc on the common cold in children ages 1 to 10 years old. Researchers found that zinc, in comparison to a placebo, significantly reduced the severity and duration of symptoms when taken within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms.The researchers noted another trial involving children ages 6.5 to 10 years old proved zinc to also be a helpful component in preventing that cold. The children who took 15 mg of zinc daily for seven months were found to be significantly less likely to catch a cold during flu season in comparison to those in the control group.
9. Dark chocolate
Believe it or not, dark chocolate can be extremely helpful in fighting off of a cold. Dark chocolate contains a heavy concentration of theobromine, an antioxidant that has been proven to alleviate coughing. A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that theobromine is helpful in suppressing cough symptoms for people with bronchitis, but notes that more research needs to be done to fully confirm their findings.
University of California in Los Angeles researchers reported broccoli can be a great addition to your diet if you’re trying to prevent a cold. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables were proven to help boost immunity, according to the study. Researchers claim that sulforaphane, a chemical in the vegetable, switches on antioxidant genes and enzymes in specific immune cells, which combat free radicals in your body and prevent you from getting sick.
11. Extra virgin olive oil
This oil has been shown to also help rebuild and boost the body’s immunity. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found olive oil’s high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the body, which also assisted in boosting the immune system and guarding the body of infection.
12. Green tea
Green tea is not only one of our recommended 5 best teas for weight loss, it’s also one of the best sources for fighting off a cold. It contains flavonoids, an antioxidant that boosts immunity, and has anti-inflammatory properties, according to a study published in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. The study states that the antioxidant catechin, which is heavily prevalent in green tea, is known to be a powerful antibacterial and antiviral and can kill off cold-starting bacteria and the influenza virus.
Spinach is a major superfood that is great for your overall health. Not only is it packed with digestion-regulating fiber, but it also contains vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful nutrient that can assist in preventing the common cold and help reduce symptoms of sickness.
14. Whole-grain bread
Whole grains contain anti-inflammatory properties, which allows for an increase of production of healthy bacteria, according to a study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Seventy percent of your immune system lives in your gut, according to Tyeese L. Gaines, DO, in our list of 27 Doctors’ Own Cures for a Cold. So, it’s important to keep your gut healthy if you want to fend off any cold-causing germs!
Eggs, especially the yolks, are packed with immunity-boosting nutrients. Eggs contain a high amount of vitamin D, a vitamin that’s vital in regulating and strengthening immunity. According to a study published in the journal JAMA, participants who took a daily serving of vitamin D in the wintertime were less likely to catch a cold or any other upper respiratory tract infection in comparison to those who did not.
Garlic has built a reputation for being one of the best cold-curing foods, and for good reason. A review of the food published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews showed that a group of participants in a study who ate garlic over a three-month period only had 24 cases of the common cold total, a significant decrease in comparison to the 65 cases reported by the control group. However, the researchers noted more studies need to be conducted in order to validate garlic’s true impact on the common cold.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" isn’t just a saying — apples actually can help prevent illnesses such as the common cold. This fruit contains phytochemical antioxidants, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal. These antioxidants help boost immunity and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
This originally appeared on Eat This, Not That!