It's Flu Season! Eat These 12 Foods to Strengthen Your Immune System
It's that time of year again—and no, we're not talking about the season of pumpkin spice and peppermint flavorings. We're talking about flu season. Even if you’re armed with copious amounts of hand sanitizer and Emergen-C, there's still a chance you’ll fall victim to these nasty viruses. So we talked to Torey Jones Armul, MS, RDN, CSSD, and Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, both spokespeople for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to find out 12 immunity-boosting foods that can help cut down on the amount of time we're under the weather. (Because who wants to spend their sick days actually, you know, feeling sick?)
Keep reading to see 12 foods that can help you get over the flu.
"Break out the chili recipe, because chili peppers are one of the most underrated sources of vitamin C," Jones Armul says. "By volume, chili peppers are the single highest food source of vitamin C, although it’s unlikely for someone to eat more than a bite or two." To reap the benefits, she recommends getting out your crockpot to make homemade soup, or adding some of this pepper to sauces.
Wondering why Vitamin C seems to be one of those universally accepted flu remedies? "It helps protect us from infection and boosts our immunity by enhancing our body's antibodies," Sheth explains.
You may be familiar with the fact that carrots are one of the best sources of beta-carotene, but what does this antioxidant actually do? "Antioxidants help protect cells from damage, so they’re beneficial when fighting infection," Jones Armul says. Beta-carotene turns into Vitamin A in the body, and just munching on 10 baby carrots is enough to get your entire day's worth of the vitamin.
Both Jones Armul and Sheth say that oysters are especially great when dealing with the flu, as they're a good source of zinc. "Zinc is critical to a well-functioning immune system," explains Jones Armul. Sheth adds that it can also help reduce how awful your flu is, along with how long it lasts. Just three oysters meet 100 percent of our daily zinc needs, Jones Armul says.
But if you simply can't stomach the thought of oysters when you're sick, she notes that a more palatable option is a cup of fortified cereal, which meets the daily recommendation of zinc. Lean meat like chicken and fish, along with milk (all the better to splash on your cereal), are also good options according to Sheth.
There's a reason this leafy green has taken the produce world by storm in the last few years. Just one cup is packed with Vitamins A and C (that's "350 percent of the daily recommended vitamin A and 90 percent of the vitamin C," Jones Armul says). "Cup for cup, cooked greens are more nutrient-dense than raw, although the best form is whichever you’re most likely to eat!"
These nuts are rich in Vitamin E. When your body doesn't get enough vitamin E, it can impair your immune system, Jones Armul says. Almonds are one the best foods you can eat to get this vitamin; one ounce meets 36 percent of the daily amount your body needs.
Which of these were surprising to you? Do you have any go-to recipes when you're sick? Sound off in the comments below!