The dreaded cold and flu season rears its ugly head every winter. Doctors recommend regular hand washing, a daily multivitamin, and adequate sleep for fending off a nasty cold or flu. Further amp up your body’s defenses by adding in these 5 common foods and nutrients into your daily routine:
- Chicken Soup: Your mom was right – chicken soup really does help when you’re feeling crumby. In addition to hydrating your body, chicken soup makes your nose run, which helps rid your nasal passages of viruses and bacteria. Slurp away!
- Yogurt: “Good bacteria” found in yogurt actually helps your immune system function better and aids in digestion. For the most powerful probiotics, look for yogurts labeled with a “Live and Active Cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association.
- Green Tea: Green tea is full of beneficial plant antioxidants known as “polyphenols.” Research suggests that these little wonders may actually kill influenza viruses. For best results, use just-below-boiling water and steep your tea bag for 1-2 minutes. To minimize bitterness, try adding a little lemon or honey, but avoid adding milk as it binds to the polyphenols and renders them ineffective.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D acts like an assassin in your body by detecting and destroying harmful bacteria and viruses. One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that children who took daily vitamin D supplements (approximately 1,200 IU) were 40% less likely to acquire the common flu virus when compared to kids who did not supplement with the vitamin. While you can get vitamin D from foods such as fatty fish and fortified milk, most experts recommend a daily supplement for optimal results.
- Soluble Fiber: There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. While both are extremely important for health, soluble fiber seems to be especially beneficial for the immune system. A study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity demonstrated that mice who ate a diet rich in soluble fiber over a six-week period recovered from bacterial infection in half the time it took mice who consumed a diet consisting of mixed fiber. Researchers suggest adults should aim for 25-38 grams of total fiber per day, paying special attention to foods rich in soluble fiber, such as citrus fruits, apples, carrots, beans, and oats.