While the peak of cold and flu season has already passed, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods just yet. A cold or flu virus can strike at any time – and while there’s not much you can do once you’ve fallen ill other than to let nature take its course, there are certain things you can do to boost your immunity in the long-run – including incorporating a healthy diet into your lifestyle. Below are just a few foods known to give the immune system a much-needed booth and improve your overall health.
The first natural remedy that often comes to mind when it comes to easing those awful symptoms a common cold (such as nasal congestion and sore throat) is chicken soup. Aside from giving you a brief reprieve, chicken soup can actually help you avoid getting sick in the first place if you eat it regularly. This is because chicken is high in vitamin B6, which blocks inflammatory proteins known as cytokines – and the more inflammation there is in your body, the harder at work your immune system is, which increases your risk of getting sick. Chicken is also rich in protein, which also helps produce antibodies known to fight viruses.
If you’re not a fan of meat or poultry, opt for seafood. A 3-oz serving of shrimp, for example, is a rich source of protein, and it can also provide the body with a hefty dose of a micronutrient known as selenium, which acts as an antioxidant and protects the immune cells from damage. Further, shrimp is also rich in vitamins and minerals, and can promote both brain and heart health due to being rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can also find zinc in shellfish (clams, crabs, lobster and mussels.) Zinc is not only essential for keeping the immune system strong, but it also aids in wound healing.
Vegetables such as broccoli and mushrooms can also be potent in fighting off viruses. Consuming just one cup of broccoli can give you more than your required daily intake of vitamin C, which helps the body create infection-fighting white blood cells, in addition to the antioxidant-activating chemical known as sulforaphane; while certain types of mushrooms, such as shitake mushrooms, contain antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-tumour properties. While it technically belongs in its own category, garlic is also sometimes referred to as a vegetable and can stimulate white blood cells in addition to acting as an antioxidant – and it can be incorporated into your meals in a number of different ways.
Fruits are also essential for vitamin C and boosting the immune system, especially citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, clementines, grapefruit, lemons and limes. In addition to having vitamin C, other fruits such as papaya and kiwi have other effects, including anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin’s B and K, folate, and potassium which are all beneficial for your overall health.
When it comes to enhancing your immunity, healthy eating is just one of many factors. Aside from having a proper diet, you should also be taking certain precautions against illness, such as practicing good hygiene (i.e. covering your nose/mouth with a tissue when sneezing, washing your hands regularly, etc.), having a regular exercise routine, making sure that you’re getting adequate sleep, avoiding alcohol, and reducing stress. You and your family members could also possibly benefit from the flu vaccine – and while the vaccine won’t necessarily stop all flu viruses that are out there, it can certainly help prevent you from getting it.