This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Cold and flu season is still upon us, and we all want to do everything we can to avoid getting sick. Washing our hands and logging enough sleep are a good start. But when it comes to protecting your immune system, diet counts too.
It makes sense: Foods are packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that can help prepare your body to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
So if you want to lower your chances of turning into a coughing, sniffing mess this month, consider adding some of these immune-boosting superfoods to your diet.
A compound called pterostilbene found in blueberries could be a major player in boosting your immune system. Pterostilbene helps the CAMP gene function. This gene is the body’s first line of defense to combat bacterial infection, the study outlines. It needs vitamin D to work, though, so make sure you’re getting enough, via sunlight, supplements, or food.
Blueberries also contain compounds known as flavonoids, which are broken down by a certain type of gut microbe, producing metabolites that may help prevent the flu, according to a study from the Washington University School of Medicine.Photo: Getty Images.
The spice has been used for centuries to treat infections, but recently research has shown how it works: Curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, works its way into cell membranes, improving their ability to ward off infectious microbes, according to a study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. (Turmeric has tons of other benefits too; it may even prevent Alzheimer's Disease.)
You can sprinkle the spice onto vegetables, add a spoonful to smoothies, and or try turmeric tea.Photo: Getty Images.
Get your mints ready. This fragrant herb is a disease-fighting powerhouse. It plays a role in how the body produces cytokines, cells released by the immune system to fight off bad-for-you bugs, reports the Journal of Immunology Research. Even if you do get sick, aged garlic extract can shorten your cold duration by 61%, according to a study in the Clinical Nutrition Journal.
Chop up a few cloves and toss them in with your favorite vegetable or meat dishes. If you're brave, you can even just pop some garlic into your mouth and eat it raw.
Photo: Getty Images.
Popeye was on the right track. The leafy green is packed with antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin E and vitamin C that may be able to help the immune system beat infections.
Spinach is healthy raw or cooked, but some experts say it's best to blend it into a smoothie or juice. A study from Linköping University revealed that when the leaves are chopped into small pieces, a greater amount of lutein, an antioxidant that can reduce inflammation, is released.
Photo: Getty Images.
When it comes to the cold-preventing star that is vitamin C, citrus fruits get all the attention. Well, it's time sweet potatoes got some credit. The versatile vegetables have an insane amount of vitamin C, and are packed with vitamin A to boot. Both can help protect and strengthen your immune system so you can more efficiently fight off sickness.
Boil them, grill them, microwave them — or my fave, eat them in fry form. Photo: Getty Images.
The spicy root can do it all: It's an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant with potent abilities to keep you well.
You can indulge in the benefits of the root by drinking ginger tea, adding it minced to a few recipes, and even just eating it raw.Photo: Getty Images.
It's oyster season. If you like them, here's an additional reason to slurp them down this month: The sea creatures are rich in zinc, a mineral that helps your white blood cells reproduce at a quicker rate. That boost may let you fight off harmful bugs more easily. Photo: Getty Images.
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