Flu season is in full effect, and most families are doing what they can to avoid getting sick. Getting a flu shot and using good hygiene practice (like washing hands) is a good first line of defense, but you should also consider working on your offense. Believe it or not, what you eat can actually make your immune system stronger and help fight off viruses and bacteria that attack it. A simple offensive strategy, that combined with preventative measures, can make all the difference this flu season. So here are some immune-boosting foods to feed your family so you can keep everyone safe.
Can the foods you feed your family really make a difference? Romper asked Chicago area pharmacist Bineesh Moyeed, who studies and dispenses pharmacological medicines, but is still a true believer in the positive effects of immune boosting foods. “Super foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are essential to a healthy immune system and lifestyle,” says Moyeed. She explains that your body breaks down immune boosting foods and extracts its nutrients and enzymes into your system.
Moyeed adds that the best thing about immune boosting foods is that they are easy to incorporate into your meals. If you have food allergies, like dairy or nut allergies, you may want to skip those. Otherwise there are plenty of immune boosting foods you can feed your family in a variety of ways for meals they can enjoy and that you can feel good about.
1. Fruits & Vegetables
Keeping up with healthy vitamin and mineral intake is a vital part of boosting your immune system. Moyeed tells Romper that fruits and veggies that contain vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E are especially helpful in building a strong immune system.
She says that for meals rich in vitamin A you can incorporate dark greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale, along with orange veggies like sweet potatoes and carrots. For vitamin C, she suggests eating strawberries, oranges, pineapple, papaya, and Brussels sprouts. Moyeed adds that the foods high in Vitamin E include almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, salmon, and avocado.
You’ve heard that yogurt can help with digestion, but did you know it can boost your immune system, too? According to a report by CNN, yogurt contains probiotics (good bacteria) that not only help with keeping your intestines bacteria and germ free, they can also improve your body’s immune response. The grocery aisle is full of different yogurt brands and varieties, so you have plenty of flavors and types to choose from. The favorite in my house is the Kefir drink and Greek yogurt. You can even incorporate yogurt into salads, like this Greek Cucumber Salad from Little Things.
3. Chicken Soup
It’s good for the soul and it’s great for a cold. Chicken soup is one of those infamous cold and flu go-tos, and apparently it really helps your immune system. When chicken is cooked, an amino acid called cysteine is released, explained Prevention. Cysteine can help thin your mucus, along with stopping inflammatory white cells from accumulating in your bronchial tubes. The article further noted that, amazingly, cysteine found in chicken soups is very similar to the drugs prescribed to treat bronchitis. You can find chicken soup at almost any restaurant or grocery store, but if you're making your own, be sure to add other immune boosting foods like turmeric, garlic, ginger, carrots, and spinach.
Garlic can make any meal taste delicious, but it’s actually a pretty potent immune booster. Garlic contains allicin, which is known to fight infection and bacteria explained Prevention. Studies have shown that people who eat lots of garlic are less likely to catch a cold than people who don’t. You can add garlic to lots of recipes and throw in a couple of cloves when cooking pasta, chicken, rice, or beef. You can pop garlic extract pills if you dislike the taste, too.
It’s amazing how much of an impact a root can make. Ginger root has been used for centuries as a healing food. According to Healthline, ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing the pain of a sore throat or other inflammatory illnesses. You can get ginger pills if you don’t like the taste, but if you do like it, there’s a lot you can do. When I get sick, I use an old Ayurvedic family remedy — ginger cinnamon chai — which really seems to help reduce my symptoms. To make this yummy tea, all you need to do is boil your water with a slice of ginger and a piece of cinnamon, and then steep your tea in it. You can add milk, honey, or sugar as you like, just make sure to drink it hot. You can find dried ginger candy to snack on, or you can add it to your stir fry, your marinades, and even add it to your desserts.
Turmeric is a yellow root, similar to ginger, which has been used in Ayurvedic healing for centuries. Studies have shown that curcumin, the element found in turmeric, is a potent immune booster that can aid in steering away certain cancer cells. According to Healthline, turmeric can also reduce inflammation and muscle damage. In Ayurveda, turmeric is mixed with warm milk to make a healing drink for all kinds of ailments. In my family alone, I’ve seen turmeric work miracles, so it’s definitely worth a try. It’s actually pretty easy to incorporate into your cooking. You can add a small amount (like half a teaspoon to a teaspoon) to marinades, soups, curries, or stir fried meals. Just remember that turmeric can leave a yellow color on foods and clothes, so be mindful when using it.
The minute anyone in my family sneezes or complains of a sore throat, I give them a zinc immune booster, like Zicam. I often find that it really helps reduce the severity of cold symptoms. According to CNN, certain studies show that zinc may make your cold duration shorter, because it helps regulate your immune system, build your lean body mass, and heal wounds. It turns out there are lots of yummy food that are high in zinc including eggs, oysters, fortified cereals, beans, pumpkins seeds, spinach, chicken, and red meat.
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