14 foods to eat to avoid colds & flu

14 foods to eat to avoid colds & flu

Boost your immunity system

No one enjoys coming down with a cold or the flu. But most adults get sick three or more times every year. (And most kids get sick even more!)

Have you ever wondered why two people could interact with the same sick friend — and one of them gets ill, but the other doesn’t?

The difference may be their immune system.

So what can you do to keep your immune system healthy? Quite a lot, it turns out.

Find out how to boost your immune system with 14 top foods in this article from the Food Revolution Network.

Do you sometimes get colds or the flu, particularly in the colder winter months? If so, you’re not alone. In the U.S., the average adult gets sick two to four times per year, and the average child between six and eight.

You probably know the basics of cold prevention, like practicing good hand washing and avoiding contact with sick peers. But have you ever wondered why two people could have exactly the same exposure to a sick friend — and one of them gets sick, while the other doesn’t?

The difference is often their immune system.

So how can you boost your immune system? It turns out
that one of the most powerful tools for a strong immune system can be
found right inside your own kitchen: the food you eat.

Let’s take a look at what your immune system does and how to
boost your immune system with food, so it can protect you from nasty,
cold-weather bugs.

What is the Immune System?

The immune system is your body’s network of organs,
tissues, and cells that work together to keep you healthy by fighting off
harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi
. It acts as a barrier
between your body and the things that can make you sick.

When your immune system is compromised, it’s like tearing
down a wall that would otherwise help to keep germs at bay

Your immune system can become compromised by dietary,
environmental, and lifestyle insults. And a compromised immune system
can lead to frequent illness
, such as the common cold and flu, as well as more
serious infections and diseases, even including cancer.

Your complex and amazing defense system is made up of two
main parts. First, you have mucous membranes found in places like your nose,
eyes, and mouth — which use white blood cells to fight infections before they
can get inside you. Second, you have T cells and B cells, which work together
to create antibodies that fight off invaders and then destroy infected cells
throughout your body.

Your bone marrow and spleen also play key roles, making
white blood cells which fight infections. And your lymphatic system transports
lymph (a fluid containing white blood cells) throughout your body.

Altogether, your immune system functions as an
amazing team, working to keep you healthy, safe, and alive

How Does Food Affect Your Immune System?

It’s difficult to overstate how important nutrition is in
promoting a healthy immune system. You need a diverse group of
phytochemicals (the bioactive chemical compounds in plants) to create a strong
barrier against pathogens that would otherwise make you ill.

Because immunity typically declines as you age, it
becomes especially important to eat more immune-boosting foods as you get older

Many studies have shown that
nutrient deficiencies cause impaired immune function in the elderly. Even in
people as young as 35 years old, poor nutrition wreaks havoc on the immune

But there’s good news, too! When elderly people eat at least
five servings per day of fruits and vegetables, they have improved antibody response to stress.

For many reasons, the more fruits and vegetables you
eat, the better off you are
. And you need specific nutrients for optimal

Some of the most immune-boosting vitamins and minerals
include folate, zinc, iron, beta-carotene, Vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and

So, what foods should you be eating to get them?

How to Boost Your Immune System with Food

As it turns out, the best immunity boosters are found in the
produce aisle, not in the pharmacy.


Eating kiwi fruit
has been shown to reduce the duration of the common cold.

In fact, it
can reduce a child’s risk of getting sick by 50% and
can even shave a few days off of how long the elderly are sick with upper
respiratory infections.

Kiwi is high in
vitamin C, folate, potassium, and antioxidants, such as alpha-Tocopherol and
lutein. It has been shown to have positive effects on the immune
 — making it potentially helpful in preventing a wide range of

Kiwi makes a great
snack for all ages. It’s easy to throw into a lunch bag or serve sliced
alongside a hearty breakfast. Most people peel it, but when you include the
peel, you triple the amount of fiber you get from this tasty fruit
. The
skin also has a unique prebiotic potency that makes it marvelous for your


Garlic has been used
in medicine for centuries.

One of the reasons
is that whole garlic contains a compound called alliin, which turns into the
active compound allicin when crushed and is known to enhance immune
. Crushed garlic also offers additional sulfur-containing compounds
with healing properties.

Heating fresh garlic
may reduce its flu-fighting ability, but some studies have shown that letting
crushed garlic sit for 10 minutes prior to heating it can protect its
immunity-boosting capabilities from being compromised

Aged garlic extract
may also reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu.

If all else fails,
garlic does wonders for opening up a stuffy nasal passage!

Enjoy minced, crushed,
or roasted garlic in homemade pasta sauces, sprinkled on pizza, in warm soups,
or as a flavor-boosting complement to almost any savory dish.


No need to cry.
Onions are good for you!

They contain two
major compounds that support immunity: the antioxidant flavonoids anthocyanin
and quercetin—and allin.

Red and yellow
varieties are particularly high in quercetin,
which is known to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral
. The highest concentration is found in the outer rings.

Enjoy onions baked,
roasted, sauteed, or chopped up and eaten raw in many dishes. If they
make your eyes water
make sure you chop them with a sharp knife,
with your arms straight, so any onion juice spray is some distance from your
. You can also cut onions under running water to protect your eyes. And
be sure to wash your hands, knife, and cutting surfaces with soapy water when
you’re done.


Ginger has many
medicinal and health uses and is known to
be a powerful anti-inflammatory andantioxidant.
It also has antimicrobial effects and can help to protect against
infectious disease.

Gingerol is the
compound found in fresh ginger that is most responsible for its anti-cancerproperties.
Gingerol is closely related to capsaicin and piperine, the active compounds in
peppers that give them their spiciness and unique medicinal traits, as well as
the curcuminoids found in turmeric.

You can purchase
ginger root fresh and keep it in the freezer. When ready to use, grate it into
stir-fries or smoothies, or boil it for a hot ginger
. You can also use it in a dried, powdered, or oil form.

Green Tea

Green tea is about
40% polyphenols by weight — and may be the most powerful of all the

It contains compounds
called catechins, as well the antioxidant quercetin and the amino acid
L-theanine, all of which support a strong immune system. These compounds
are effective agents in helping the body fight viruses, such as influenza and
many forms of gastrointestinal infections.

Green tea is an immunity warrior. One study showed that women under 50 who drank green tea at
least three times per day reduced their risk of breast cancer by 37%.

But you may not
necessarily have to drink green tea all the time to reap its benefits.
In fact, gargling these catechins has also been shown
to reduce incidences of influenza among the elderly

Cruciferous Vegetables

A 2011 study published in the journal Cell found
that cruciferous
, including kale, collard greens, mustard greens, Chinese
cabbage, bok choy, kohlrabi, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, are a
source of a 
chemical signal necessary for the immune
system to function at its best

vegetables contain beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, folate, and vitamins C,
E, and K. They are also rich in sulfur-containing substances called
glucosinolates, which make sulforaphane
a phytochemical known for its immune-boosting and anti-cancer
. When chewed and chopped, these vegetables also release other
cancer-fighting compounds called isothiocyanates.

Of all the
cruciferous veggies, kale appears to offer the most
polyphenols, which enhance the body’s defense against pathogens,
especially when cooked.

Try chopping leafy,
cruciferous greens and mixing them into salads. You can also add them to soups,
sprinkle them onto pizzas, or even blend them into smoothies.

Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Fermented Foods

Digestive health has
a huge impact on nearly every important function in your body — including your
immune system.

Some of the most
important players in gut health include probiotics (the good
bacteria in your gut) and prebiotics (which feed the

Probiotics can
be found in supplement form and are also abundant in fermented
, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, yogurt, kefir, and natto.
They appear to reduce the risk for upper respiratory infections.

And a 2003
study published in Gut observed the ability
of probiotic strains Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus
 to protect cells from the most dangerous forms of E.coli

Prebiotics are
abundant in whole plant foods — especially jicama, chicory root,
garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, leeks, leafy greens, bananas, and the peel
of kiwi fruit

A 2011 study published in
the Journal of Gastroenterology found that prebiotics had
several positive effects, such as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory
, as well as supporting increased mineral
and stronger immune response to disease.

(Learn more about
probiotics and prebiotics, including how much to take, here.)

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast
contains beta glucans, which are known to have powerful infection-preventingand immune-boosting
 by enhancing natural
killer cell (anti-cancer and anti-infection) activity.

A 2013 study published in
the European Journal of Nutrition found that people
who consumed one tablespoon of nutritional yeast per day were able to reduce
recurrence of infections from the common cold by 25%

Nutritional yeast
offers a nutty or cheesy taste. You can sprinkle it onto pasta, soups, and
salads. You can also use it in baking or mixed into homemade sauces.


Of all the
superfoods, if I had to pick one that I love the most, it could well be
. There’s something about their sweet juiciness and abundant
bursting flavor that adds a special kind of sparkle to the world.

Their colors are
pretty extraordinary, too! And it turns out, those colors aren’t just for
looks. Berries get their dark purple, pink, red, and blue hues from chemicals
known as anthocyanins, which are used to help treat many conditions, including high blood
, colds, and urinary tract infections.

Berries are also
high in antioxidants, like vitamin C, which help prevent cell damage
and inflammation
. One of the antioxidants found abundantly in berries is
ellagic acid, which is known to prevent tumor growth and protect immunity of
the oral
mucous membrane

In 2013, researchers
analyzed 446 compounds for their ability to boost natural human immunity. Their conclusion, which they published in Molecular Nutrition and Food
, was that resveratrol in red grapes and a
substance called pterostilbene in blueberries had the most

A 2018 review of the
health effects of berries and their phytochemicals on the digestive and immune
systems found that whole berries had potent,
immune-boosting properties

You can add
strawberries to a salad, raspberries to oatmeal, or blueberries to a batch of
weekend pancakes. You can even make elderberry
, which you can take by the teaspoon or add to a hot beverage.

Citrus Fruits

You’ve probably
heard people say drinking orange juice can help battle the common cold. But did
you know that eating citrus fruits in their whole form is even more

Citrus fruits are
rich in protective antioxidants like vitamin C, which can help to boost your
immune system and make you less susceptible to illness.

Sometimes, when people are stressed, their immune
function diminishes
. This is one of
the reasons that people under stress are more likely to get sick. A study published in Neuroimmunomodulation found
that simply smelling citrus fragrances could reduce stress-induced

So stock up on
oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and tangerines this winter for some easy,
grab-and-go flu fighters.


There are hundreds
of mushroom species, and virtually all of them offer unique protective health

Mushrooms have been
used medicinally for thousands of years. And today, modern science is beginning
to understand how potent these fungi really are.

Regularly eating blanched white button mushrooms, found
in most grocery stores, has been
shown to
improve immunity 
in the mouth and respiratory tract. Less common
varieties, including Reishi, Turkey Tail, and Shiitake, appear to attack viruses
and cancer cells.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American
College of Nutrition
 by the University of Florida followed 52 healthy
adults, ages 21 to 41, who ate one, four-ounce serving of dried Shiitake
mushrooms daily for four weeks. They observed better functioning T-cells and reduced
inflammation, in a way 
not seen before through drug interventions.

Find out more about
the extraordinary health benefits of medicinal mushrooms here.

You can dice
mushrooms and add them to veggie burgers, slice and cook them in stir-fries,
blend them into soups, or stuff and bake them. You can also enjoy them in powders and coffee substitutes.


An apple a
day…provides a great source of soluble fiber, which can strengthen your
immune system

A 2010 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity fed
mice diets that differed only in that some were given soluble fiber and some
were given insoluble fiber. Those who were fed soluble fiber showed “profound, positive changes in their immune
system,” increasing production of anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-4 and
recovering much quicker from induced bacterial illness.

Other studies
have shown apples to have robust antioxidant
. This is important because antioxidants help protect your cells
from damage and can lower your risk for infections and disease. (For more on
what antioxidants are and what they do, click here.)

Enjoy apples whole,
sliced, or blended into homemade applesauce, or baked with peanut butter and
raisin filling for a delicious natural dessert.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds
are full of vitamin E, containing 82% of the daily value in just
one-quarter cup

Vitamin E is a
powerful antioxidant known to reduce the risk of inflammation-related diseases,
protect your body from cell damage, and fight oxidative stress that can lead to
illness. Sunflower seeds also create antibodies that can help fight

You can toast
sunflower seeds, eat them raw, add them to a salad, or blend them into sunflower

Red Peppers

Red peppers have twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits and contain vitamin E and
beta-carotene, which may give you
an immunity boost.

A 2010 study published in
the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology found that capsaicin
in red peppers induced an anti-inflammatory effect, possibly
through inhibiting inflammatory cytokine production.

Red peppers are
versatile. You can enjoy them raw, roasted, stir-fried, or as part of a soup,
salad, or pasta dish. Varieties range from mild to very spicy.

What About Supplements to Boost Immunity?

In addition to a
healthful diet, a few single nutrients appear to help immunity and may be worth
adding to your cold-weather routine in supplement form.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased susceptibility to illness.

Vitamin D levels may
even be directly linked to T-cell function, which is an important part
of your body’s defense mechanisms. Studies have shown that
vitamin D supplementation can be protective against acute respiratory

Your skin makes
vitamin D when you expose it to direct sunlight, but some individual factors
can interfere with the amount you produce, including skin pigmentation, the
latitude where you live, air pollution, age, and gut health. And most of
us in the modern world don’t get nearly as much sun exposure as our ancestors
did — especially in the wintertime.

I find it
fascinating that most of us tend to get less sun exposure (and vitamin D) in
the winter months — which is also when our immune systems are at their
weakest. I started taking vitamin D3 supplements a few years ago, and I
haven’t had a cold or the flu since.

The typical
recommendation for a healthy adult is 1,000-2,000 IU per day if you aren’t
exposed to daily direct sunlight — although some experts believe that the optimal supplementation level for
most adults may be closer to 5,000 IU.


Zinc is an essential nutrient
for everyone, and it’s a powerful antioxidant known to boost immunity.
It has even been described as
the “gatekeeper of immune function.”

You can find zinc in
plant foods, such as wheat germ, beans, legumes, nutritional yeast, oats, nuts,
and seeds. However, plant-based diets are often high in phytates (found in
cereal grains and corn), which can inhibit the absorption of zinc from other
foods and ultimately increase your daily requirements.

Zinc supplements can be useful during cold and flu
season, especially on a plant-based diet.
 You can find these in lozenge form. The general dose recommendation
is 11-13 mg per day for most adults.

Stock Your Pantry And Protect Yourself This Season

Eating well doesn’t
only prevent major chronic disease like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
It can also help you prevent the flu and colds — and heal more quickly if you
do get sick.

As you head into
cold and flu season, try stocking up on health-boosting foods and see what
happens. You might stay healthier than ever through the colder months.

Remember to sign up for your free Healthy Living / Personal Development book a month

Also check out our book site for help with Healthy Living Solutions.


Rod Stone
Publisher and Supplier of Healthy Living information and products to improve
your life.

This site makes use of cookies which may contain tracking information about visitors. By continuing to browse this site you agree to our use of cookies.