Flu season is upon us, but that’s not even the worst thing you have to worry about. Experts have also warned people of tridemia this year, which is the result of an increase in RSV cases, flu cases and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Although these cannot be 100% avoided, 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 maintaining a balanced diet, exercising, taking vitamins, reducing your alcohol intake, and getting a good night’s sleep each night. These steps can help us have healthier immunity, but there’s always the possibility that you’ll catch a cold or the flu. When this happens, it’s important to have your pantry and fridge stocked with helpful immune-boosting foods.
To learn more about foods that would be helpful in supporting a healthy immune system strong enough to weather cold and flu season, we asked dietitians what foods they like to have on hand when they get sick.
Having colorful products on hand when you get sick can help you bounce back faster.
“Antioxidants like flavonoids, anthocyanins, and carotenoids help fight free radicals (aka the bad guys) that can potentially damage your cells and compromise your immune system,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LDwho is a member of our medical expert committee and author of The Sports Nutrition Handbook. “And fortunately, these nutrients are found in all of your colored products.”
So if you catch a cold or the flu, what exactly should you have stocked up on as produce to get those 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 produce. orange, yellow, and red like summer squash, pumpkin, 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 what your body needs to fight infections. Additionally, vitamin C can help fight free radicals, like the other antioxidants mentioned above. You can keep a vitamin C supplement handy when you’re in a bind, of course. However, you can also get your daily vitamin C intake from different foods.
“Although you might only think of oranges and orange juice, you can also get vitamin C from tomatoes and tomato juice, red peppers, other citrus fruits like strawberries, and green leafy vegetables. like spinach and green beans,” says Goodson.
If you’re a meat eater, it can be beneficial to keep some lean beef on hand when you need a nutritious boost after getting 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 just prefer plant-based protein over red meat, according to Goodson, you can also get zinc from legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and even dark chocolate.
According Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FANDan award-winning nutrition expert and the wall street journal bestselling author of The Family Immunity Cookbookhaving Greek yogurt in your fridge can help give your body essential nutrients in a snap.
“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 don’t necessarily like plain Greek yogurt, try one of Amidor’s recipes like Mama’s Berry Smoothie, this berry compote yogurt, or this immunity-boosting hot cocoa made with whipped cream.
Although it’s not technically a food, sipping green tea can boost your overall health, especially during flu season.
“I always have green tea bags in my pantry because green tea contains polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that help fight disease,” Amidor says. “Polyphenols tend to activate signaling of different immune system pathways when a foreign invader is present to help the body respond in the way needed to help fight it off.”
If you’re not a hot green tea fan, you can always try this Green Tea Smoothie Bowl to incorporate the powerful antioxidants in a unique way.
Along with green tea, the items mentioned 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 essential nutrients will help speed up your recovery process.
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