Fight the flu, the common cold and all their unfriendly variations the tasty way. Include these foods and spices in your winter diet and you’ll boost your immune system to help ward off pesky bugs that sideline your cold-weather adventures.
1. Spice it up. Seasonings like oregano, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and turmeric help quell inflammation and combat viruses and bacteria. They’re also warming spices, which we crave more of during colder months, so use them liberally in recipes; supplements are also available to obtain higher doses.
2. Chicken soup. Turns out, this old wives’ tale is not a myth. Chicken soup not only soothes the soul, but the body, too. Though there’s no consensus on why chicken soup helps clear a cold, there are some theories. One study by Dr. Stephen Rennard from the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that chicken soup slowed the movement of neutrophils, which are the main white blood cells that fight infection. His thought is that by limiting their migration, the warm fluid reduces the symptoms of a respiratory illness.
Mount Sinai researchers in Miami found something else: the soup seemed to increase the movement of nasal mucus better than hot water alone. And a report from Coping with Allergies and Asthma found that chicken soup also strengthens cilia, the small hair-like fibers lining the inside of the nose to protect against invaders and contaminants.
3. Broccoli. This cruciferous veggie has tons of health benefits going for it, and you can add another to the list: vitamin C. One cup of broccoli offers 135% of your daily need for vitamin C, which can help kick a cold and strengthens your immune system. Other foods high in this antioxidant include bell peppers, strawberries and citrus fruits.
4. Orange foods. When you are sick, people tell you to drink orange juice, right? Not only does orange juice contain vitamin C, but also some beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A, along with vitamin D, are important nutrients to boost T-regulatory cells, which are prime fighters for the immune system. Most orange-colored fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of beta carotene. Grapefruit has the most in the citrus family. Think squashes, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes and stone fruit.
5. Mushrooms. Mushrooms pretty much do it all: they sweep away free radical damage, contain B vitamins to combat stress and have trace minerals to support a variety of bodily functions. They also are an anti-inflammatory food: they contain beta-glucans, which help activate immune cells, and the antioxidant ergothioneine, which dampens inflammation throughout the body. They may be able to decrease the length of a cold or other illness since they help inactivate viruses. Plus, they decrease the risk of cancer. Mix up your mushroom intake for variety in taste and health benefits.
6. Oysters/zinc: One oyster contains 13 milligrams of zinc (to put that in perspective, adult women are recommended to eat 8 milligrams daily; men, 11 milligrams). According to studies, taking in some extra zinc within 24 hours of the first sign of sniffles or sneezes can reduce the length of your cold. You can add canned oysters to a salad or dinner dish for a dose. Not an oyster fan? Not to worry. You can up your zinc intake with a lozenge or instead.