The dreaded flu season is here, and although nothing beats having a good sleep routine and keeping your stress to a minimum, here are some great foods that can help support your immune system and give it that extra flu-fighting kick.
Don’t you find it interesting how the flu season and the citrus season coincide? Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C and other essential vitamins and minerals, which are believed to strengthen your immune system and help you fight off the nasty bugs that keep you sneezing and coughing for days to come. Vitamin C is a powerful micronutrient whose health benefits are continually being researched and studied for potential illness-treatment purposes. Citrus fruits are also full of fiber, which feeds the good bacteria in your gut and improves the health of your digestive system, which in turn protects your body from harmful pathogens and bacteria.
In addition to that, citrus fruits contain flavonoids—plant compounds thought to protect the cardiovascular system and lower bad cholesterol. They also contain potassium, which is essential for fluid regulation, overall mineral balance, and muscle contraction. Potassium also helps to counter-regulate the amount of salt in your diet by helping your body flush out sodium, which helps keep your blood pressure in check. Fruits that fit into this category also have a low GI (glycemic index), so they won’t cause your insulin to spike up, which makes them suitable even for those on the ketogenic diet. All that’s left to do is visit your local farmer’s market or grocery store, and pack your bags with lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, and those delicious tangerines, and start snacking throughout your day.
Eastern cultures have recognized the incredible benefits of ginger for thousands of years, and continue to use them for treating various illnesses and syndromes. Nowadays, it’s a prevalent remedy for when your immune system gets kicked down, and you become exposed to all sorts of viruses and bacteria. It’s full of antioxidants that can help fight off inflammation and free radicals. Although there isn’t much evidence to fully support its flu-fighting properties, a 2013 study was able to confirm its antiviral activity against a specific human respiratory virus, making researchers around the world excited about learning even more.
It’s also believed to relieve the symptoms of nausea, arthritis, and even improve cardiovascular health. Whatever the case may be, including it into your diet, especially during the flu season, can’t do any harm, so add it to your tea, grate it into your carrot soup, or ask for extras when you go to your favorite sushi spot.
Your partner may not be particularly pleased when you decide to add more garlic into your diet, but it’s actually for both of your benefits, cause if you don’t get sick, neither will he or she. This little white bulb has been a staple of almost every cuisine in the world for its aromatic purposes. It’s also been a staple of many homemade “cures,” which makes us believe that our ancestors were definitely onto something.
Throughout the years, garlic has been linked to everything from reduced risk of heart disease to preventing dementia. Still, it’s for the antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant immune-boosting properties that it received all the most press. Its complex biochemistry composition appears to enhance the functioning of the immune system by stimulating certain bacteria and virus-fighting cell types, which helps keep the bad guys away. These same compounds (alliin, which turns to allicin) contain sulfur, which is the reason for its distinctive smell and taste. So, although snacking on garlic isn’t the best idea for a first date, chopping it into your meals is a great way to ensure you’re getting all the benefits.
You might be wondering why chicken soup seems to be the ultimate “comfort food
and a “cure-for-all” in almost every culture in the world, and the reason is—bone broth. Bone broth is made by literally cooking the bones (for up to 24 hours) and letting them release the long list of nutrients they hide inside. The most important thing to note is that these nutrients come in a bioavailable form, which means they’re effortless to digest. Bone broth is high in protein and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It’s incredibly rich in collagen (LINK to my article). And, it can even help treat conditions like leaky gut syndrome and inflammation.
Although the research on bone broth benefits is still emerging (and it may not benefit everyone in the same way), there are no real adverse side effects. So, making it a part of your cooking routine can only do you good (and also improve your cooking skills!)
Even though the word “medicinal” gives it away, certain mushrooms are known to be extremely beneficial to human health, and exciting new studies keep on coming. Also called functional mushrooms for the way they affect our bodies, they’ve become a part of the ingredient list of every “superfood” and health-conscious company. The most famous of the bunch include:
- Reishi, which has a long history of health and longevity use and has been widely recognized all over the world
- Chaga, whose benefits make for an impressive list and have been linked to everything from lowering inflammation and balancing out blood sugar to cancer prevention
- Lion’s Mane, whose brain-boosting benefits you cannot ignore
- Cordyceps, which seems to have powerful therapeutic and performance-boosting properties
- Turkey Tail, which has shown substantial immune-boosting benefits.
Although the easiest way to get these mushrooms is in powder form or as a part of a supplement, they are not impossible to find raw or dehydrated, so you can use them to make mushroom broth for your soups and stews, or even add them to your stir-fry. Their taste and smell are fascinating and probably differ from anything you’ve been used to so far, so make sure to start with a small dose and adjust as needed.
Take care of yourself this winter season and arm up with all the possible tools you can encounter. From getting enough sleep and taking rest days when needed to finding the time to exercise and including these five foods into your diet, it’s time to kick the flu to the curb and welcome spring unscathed.