Flu season is upon us, but that’s not even the worst thing to fear. Experts have also warned people about the tridem this year, which has resulted from an increase in RSV cases, flu cases and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While these can’t be avoided 100%, there are ways to prepare for a possible infection this winter. First of all, it is important to prepare our body by focusing on a healthy immune system.
To prepare your immune system, the CDC recommends things like a balanced diet, exercise, taking vitamins, reducing your alcohol consumption, and getting a good night’s sleep every night. These steps can help us build a healthier immunity, but there’s always a chance you’ll catch a cold or the flu anyway. When this happens, it’s important to have your pantry and refrigerator stocked with beneficial foods that boost your immune system.
To learn more about which foods might be helpful in supporting a healthy immune system strong enough to weather cold and flu season, we asked dietitians about the foods they like to have on hand when they’re sick. become.
Colorful fruits and vegetables
Having some colorful products on hand for when you get sick will help you recover faster.
“Antioxidants like flavonoids, anthocyanins, and carotenoids help fight the free radicals (aka the bad guys) that can potentially cause damage to your cells and compromise your immune system,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LDwho is a member of our Expert Medical Board and the author of The sports nutrition book. “And thankfully, these nutrients can be found in all of your colorful produce.”
So if you come down with a cold or flu virus, what exactly should you stock up on to get these antioxidants into your diet as quickly as possible?
Flavonoids are found in foods like berries, kale, cabbage, and even dark chocolate, anthocyanins are found in berries, grapes, pomegranates, and medjool dates, and carotenoids are found in orange, yellow, and red produce like summer squash, butternut squash, mango, and apricots. ,” says Goodson.
“Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that can help keep your immune system strong against illness and disease,” says Goodson.
In fact, this vitamin can help your white blood cells grow and produce, which are the kind your body needs to help fight infection. In addition, vitamin C can help fight free radicals, similar to the other antioxidants mentioned above. Of course, you can keep a vitamin C supplement on hand for when you’re in a pinch. However, you can also get your daily amount of vitamin C from different foods.
“While you may only think of oranges and orange juice, you can also get vitamin C from tomatoes and tomato juice, red peppers, other citrus fruits such as strawberries, and green vegetables such as spinach and green beans,” explains Goodson.
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Low fat beef
If you’re a carnivore, it can be helpful to keep some lean beef on hand for when you need a nutrient boost after you get sick.
“Zinc is a mineral that helps maintain a strong immune system, and beef is considered an excellent source of zinc, providing almost half of what you need in a day,” says Goodson.
If you’re a vegetarian or simply prefer plant-based protein over red meat, you can also get a zinc boost from legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and even dark chocolate, according to Goodson.
According to Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FANDan award-winning nutritionist and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Family Immunity CookbookHaving some Greek yogurt in your fridge can help keep your body in crucial nutrients.
“I stock up on big tubs of Greek yogurt because it’s a natural source of immune-boosting nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, selenium, and zinc,” says Amidor. “Greek yogurt also provides live, active cultures that act as ‘good’ bacteria in the gut and help protect the digestive tract.”
If you’re not into Greek yogurt per se, try one of Amidor’s recipes like the Mama’s Berry Smoothie, this Yogurt With Berry Compote, or this Hot Cocoa Made With Immunity-Boosting Whipped Cream.
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While it’s not technically a food, drinking some green tea can benefit your overall health, especially during flu season.
“I always have green tea bags in my pantry because green tea contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that have been shown to help fight disease,” says Amidor. “Polyphenols tend to activate signaling from different pathways in the immune system when a foreign invader is present to help the body respond in whatever way it can to help fight it.”
If you are not a fan of hot green tea, you can always try this Green Tea Smoothie Bowl to process the powerful antioxidants in a unique way.
Along with green tea, the items listed above are great to have on hand for those times when you suddenly get sick. It’s important to take care of your immune system at all times, but giving your body these crucial nutrients can speed up your recovery process.