12 Foods to Boost Your Immune System This Flu Season
A pineapple a day keeps the doctor away? According to new research from the Philippine Women's University School of Nutrition, it may be time to rewrite the old adage. In a recent study, researchers found that eating 1/2 cup of pineapples every day for two months helped boost participants' immune systems. That's probably because pineapple is packed with nutrients that boost your body's production of granulocytes, which are what make up white blood cells. Since white blood cells are your body's first line of defense against bacteria and flu bugs, having a healthy count as you head into flu season is key for staving off infection.
"Salmon is like nature's advil," says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of the New York Nutrition Group. "It provides the body with tons of immune-boosting omega-3s, protein, vitamin E, and calcium." She recommends swapping out tired chicken dishes for baked wild salmon two to three times a week throughout flu season. (Try these 4 Brilliant Ways to Avoid the Same Old Grilled Salmon.)
Yogurt is chock-full of all kinds of goodness for your gut—and your best friend when it comes to fortifying yourself against a nasty stomach flu. A meta-analysis published in the
Korean Journal of Family Medicine
found that the disease-fighting probiotics in yogurt help to prevent your worst cold and flu symptoms. Moskovitz recommends grabbing some Greek yogurt as an afternoon snack this season to help you stay healthy (or try one of these 10 Savory Greek Yogurt Recipes.)
Oysters aren't just for putting you in the mood. During flu season, they're should be a part of your (much less sexy) flu-fighting arsenal. The shellfish have a high amount of zinc, which helps to boost immune system function and promote healing. Research shows that when consumed at the first sign of the sniffles, zinc can help reduce the length and severity of sickness. Sign us up!
Not into oysters? Dark leafy greens like spinach are also packed with cold-busting zinc. Plus, spinach has a ton of vitamin A, which has been shown to boost immunity. In fact, a study published in the journal
found that consuming vitamin A while pregnant actually boosts the baby's immune system for life. Pass the spinach, please.
Carrots are known for their beta-carotene (which gives them that orange hue), but they also contain a high amount of infection-fighting and immune system-regulating vitamin A. "Vitamin A also keeps the tissue in the mouth, stomach, respiratory systems, and intestines healthy and strong," says Moskovitz. A serving of carrots has twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, so pile it on your plate a couple times a week to ward off the sniffles.
Long praised as a heart-healthy source of protein, eggs are also an eggcellent to fortify your body against the flu. "Eggs are a great way to start the day and boost your immune system," says Moskovitz who recommends eating them three to four times a week. (Try one of these 10 Easy Egg Recipes.) "They're full of protein, iron and vitamin A, which all help with immune function."
Your fave childhood snack is actually doing your immune system a favor. Peanut butter is packed with vitamin E and flu-fighting antioxidants, which makes it one of Mosovitz's go-tos for keeping your immune system strong in the winter. She recommends getting a daily dose by spreading on toast with a banana for breakfast or just eating it straight from the spoon as an energy-boosting snack. (Check out these upgrades to your favorite snack: 12 Crazy-Amazing Homemade Peanut Butter Recipes.)
This tasty veggie is teeming with a compound called glutathione, which some studies have shown protects against the flu by boosting your immune function. Gluathione acts like your body's police force, hunting down anything that doesn't belong (like the influenza virus) and discarding it. If you feel something coming on, plan on one of these 25 Can't-Believe-It's-Cauliflower Recipes for dinner.
Tea with Lemon
Sipping hot tea is sometimes the only thing you can stomach when you're in the throws of being sick. But research shows that sipping tea—especially with a few slices of lemon—can keep the flu from setting in at all. According to a study published in
Nutrition Research and Practice
, both lemons and tea are laced with a compound called quercetin that boosts immune function. (Are Lemons Nature's Form of Xanax?)
No flu-fighting foods list would be complete without a chicken soup cure-all. And there's actually scientific backing to Grandma's go-to: German researchers found that chicken soup has a compound called carsonine, which helps to fight infection, ease respiratory symptoms, and boosts your overall immunity. Plus, it's one of our Top 30 Hydrating Foods, a crucial factor in helping you recover from sickness sooner.