As temperatures drop and weeks of holiday revelry begin to take their toll, the familiar sounds of sniffling noses and wheezing coughs begin to punctuate office cubicles and grocery store lines. Stay healthy this flu season by turning to foods rich in vitamins and nutrients, and your immune system with have a fighting chance of bouncing back from sickness unscathed.
When we are sick with a cold, flu, or fever, the most important thing our body needs is fluids. Andrew Weil, MD, once said that if you want to get sick, just stop drinking water. It’s really that important. Water, vegetable broths, and herbal teas are optimum nectar for revitalization. Research shows that room temperature and warm fluids are more beneficial than cold drinks. Cold liquids can hinder wellness by taxing the immune system as your body works to heat the liquid up for digestion. Eight to 10 glasses of warm fluids each day can help loosen mucus and congestion, and prevent dehydration that’s common with fever. Herbal and medicinal teas are perfect warm elixirs. Several commercial varieties offer a slew of health-supporting, cold- and flu-fighting teas.
When this warm broth is doctored up with strands of seaweed, slivers of ginger, and small squares of tofu, miso is true flu-season comfort food. Miso is fermented soybean paste, and, since it’s fermented, it is rich in beneficial enzymes. High levels of zinc boost immune function and healing, and miso supports immunity with its natural probiotics. It’s also rich in antioxidants, and is commonly recommended as a source of vitamin B12 for vegans. Brew up a soothing cup, but take care not to boil the miso and kill all the lively benefits.
Just like carrots and sweet potatoes, pumpkins advertise their health benefits through their radiant hues. Orange veggies are good sources of carotenoids, including beta-carotene. This powerful nutrient supports production of infection-fighting cells in our body. So steam, purée, or mash up something orange for a healthy immune system. Doesn’t a warm bowl of whipped pumpkin sprinkled with cinnamon sound like a perfect treat?
Dark, leafy greens
Florets of broccoli and compact Brussels sprouts are winners for wintertime health. These cruciferous veggies are high in minerals like calcium and zinc, which means they are as good for immunity-boosting as they are for your bones. Along with bell peppers and tomatoes, these colorful morsels are high in vitamin C, which bolsters immune function.
Garlic isn’t just good for warding off vampires. Garlic is the mother of antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral foods. Some diehards, at the first signs of a cold, chew a piece of raw garlic each day. Consumed raw, garlic is pungent and powerful. One tiny clove of garlic is packed tight with an army of garlicky compounds that help our bodies prevent and fight infections. Crushing garlic releases more allicin, one of the powerhouse compounds, so if you’re feeling brave, mince some up, spread on toast, and eat your way to good health.