Five Immunity-Boosting Foods

These foods contain vitamins and minerals that are crucial to keeping your body strong and healthy during cold and flu season.

By: Melissa Romero

Take a trip to the cold and flu aisle of your local CVS and you’ll be bombarded with a hundred different products claiming to ward off sickness. With all those options, it’s easy to forget one of the easiest ways to keep our immune systems healthy: our diet.

Local nutritionist Cheryl Harris recommends incorporating these immunity-boosting foods into your meals as the cold and flu season pushes its way in. For tips on serving sizes, visit the Web site ChooseMyPlate.gov, which allows you to enter your age, weight, and height to determine how much of each food group you should be eating.


Yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut

Why: There are ten times more bacteria cells in our body than human cells, so “keeping them in a happy balance is key for the immune system,” Harris says. These fermented foods contain probiotics, or “friendly bacteria,” which help protect against pathogens (microorganisms that cause disease or illness).


Beans

Why: Beans provide zinc, an essential mineral that the body can’t produce on its own. A 2011 study found that taking zinc in a syrup or tablet form during the first few days of a cold may cut it short by a day or so. In addition to the vital role zinc plays in immune functionality, it also helps with wound healing and normal growth and development during pregnancy. You also need it to have a sense of taste and smell.
Also try: Swiss chard, collard greens, squash, mushrooms, and liver


Salmon

Why: This oily fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. “They’re a key component for cell membranes, which are vital to keeping us healthy,” Harris says. Omega-3s have also been proven to reduce babies’ chances of experiencing cold symptoms if the expectant mother includes them in her diet.

Hot Ginger Lemon Drink

Why: Ginger does more than make your tummy ache go away. The root has a high concentration of antioxidants and also acts as an anti-inflammatory. If you feel like you’re getting sick (sore throat, stuffy nose), “this drink will clear out your sinuses in no time at all,” Harris says. Ginger is also a diaphoretic, so it’ll help induce sweating and reduce fevers. Click here for a recipe.


Oranges, clementines, grapefruits, and pomegranates

Why: These citrus fruits are heavy in vitamin C, which our bodies do not produce. Vitamin C has often been used in attempts to cure the common cold, though various studies have found that it does little to help the general population. On the other hand, if you’re a marathoner, triathlete, soldier, or someone who is often in extreme conditions, you’re in luck. A 2007 study found that people in this group cut their risk of catching a cold in half by taking vitamin C.

Photographs courtesy of Flickr users cookbookman 17, snowpea&bokchoi, dullhunk, and {eclaire}