7 immune-boosting foods to help you get through cold and flu season
This article originally appeared on Clean Eating
Don’t want to catch a cold – or the flu – when the temperatures drop? It’s hard to avoid sneezing, coughing, and sinus problems during cold and flu season. Millions of cases from the common cold every year, and even the strongest immune system can get sick during autumn and winter. But there’s a simple (and delicious) way to fight back: add immune-boosting foods to your daily diet.
The following foods are proven immune boosters, and eating them regularly can provide you with the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need to keep your immune system strong.
1. Black tea
This particular variety of tea is rich in a group of pathogen-fighting compounds that can protect against various viral infections. Tea leaves contain natural compounds, including polyphenols, catechins and alkaloids such as caffeine, theobromine and theophylline that defend plants against invasive pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses. Older studies show that black tea can almost completely inhibit the infectivity of the flu virus. And in one study, black tea extract, rich in flavanol compounds called theaflavins, inhibited herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) infection.
How to taste black tea
Puree strong brewed black tea with grated ginger, frozen mango, and Greek yogurt for a flu-fighting breakfast
Steep black tea bags in hot water, then use as a broth to cook brown rice, garlic and onions
2. Shiitake mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are full of beta-glucans, antiviral compounds that have been shown to inhibit viral replication and improve immune function. In one study, people who ate shiitake mushrooms for four weeks showed improved immune markers as well as reduced inflammation. Other studies show that shiitake mushrooms also have significant antibacterial and antifungal properties, and protected against 85% of yeast, mold and other organisms they were tested on.
How to taste shiitake mushrooms
Thinly slice shiitake mushroom caps, cover with melted coconut oil and minced garlic and bake until crispy
Roast shiitakes, sliced carrots, broccoli, sliced red pepper and minced ginger in sesame oil and tamaria, then mix with cooked soba or rice noodles.
This is a good breakfast food that contains plenty and a variety of probiotics that can help fight viral infections. In one review, 28 studies found that probiotics have a positive effect on respiratory tract infections (RTIs). Other studies have shown that probiotics can improve respiratory tract immunity, speed recovery, and reduce the severity of respiratory infections caused by the influenza virus. They are thought to work by improving overall immune function, by directly interacting with the virus and/or by producing antiviral compounds. Yogurts that are rich in probiotics may protect against other viral infections, including some types of Coxsackie virus, HIV-1, and viruses that cause diarrhea.
How to taste yogurt
Line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth, pour in the yogurt, put it over a bowl and let it sit overnight for a lighter yogurt cheese.
Whisk yogurt with apple cider vinegar, dried dill and minced garlic and chives for a healthy dressing.
Ginger has long been used in traditional medicine to treat colds and flu, and modern studies show that it has measurable antiviral benefits. In one study, fresh ginger protected against HRSV (human respiratory syncytial virus, a major cause of lower respiratory tract infections) by blocking the virus’ ability to bind to cells and stimulating the release of compounds that help fight viral infections.
How to taste ginger
Cut the peeled ginger root into matchsticks, sauté in olive oil until it becomes crispy and use as a topping for soups or salads.
Simmer slices of ginger in milk or coconut milk, strain, then whisk in turmeric and honey for a creamy, soothing drink
5. Apple cider vinegar
If you’re used to sipping apple cider vinegar or taking it as a supplement, this traditionally used antiviral can become an immune-boosting food during cold and flu season. Numerous modern studies have shown the antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against various pathogens. Researchers suggest that apple cider vinegar may work in a variety of ways, including the antiviral properties of apples and the presence of probiotics that occur during the fermentation process.
How to try apple cider vinegar
Steep dried elderberries and sliced ginger in apple cider vinegar, then strain and add honey for a lighter oxymel (herbal tonic).
Whisk together apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard and olive oil for a sweet, creamy dressing
Garlic contains powerful compounds, including allicin, diallyl trisulfide, and ajoene, that fight viruses, including influenza, rhinovirus, cytomegalovirus (a type of herpes virus), herpes simplex, HIV, viral pneumonia, and rotavirus. In one study, people who took allicin extract for 12 weeks had significantly fewer colds than a placebo group, and those who did get colds recovered faster.
How to taste garlic
Roast whole heads of garlic, with the skin, until the clove is soft, then let it cool and peel off the skin
Finely chop the raw garlic and add to the olive oil, lemon juice and ground thyme dressing.
It’s more than just a warming spice—cinnamon has been used in herbal medicine for hundreds of years, and chemical profiles show that its active compounds have antiviral, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory effects. In one study, cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its characteristic taste and smell, inhibited the growth of the flu virus. Cinnamaldehyde also inhibits Listeria and Escherichia coli in food and protects against various yeasts and fungi, incl Candida albicans.
How to taste cinnamon
Add cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla extract and coconut milk to tea-infused breakfast oatmeal
Add cinnamon and cocoa powder to your morning coffee
For more immune-boosting foods, keep reading:
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