8 Foods to Boost Immunity

As polar vortexes, nor’easters and monsoons ensue across the country, people are more likely to stay indoors, which also means that germs can circulate more easily.

Cue the sniffling, sore throats, coughs and congestion — classic signs of the common cold. If you’re feeling under the weather, food might be the last thing on your mind. Some people may lose their appetite [when they’re feeling sick] due to diminished sense of taste or smell or lack of energy.

But even if you’ve lost your appetite, it’s important to keep consuming nutrient-dense grub. The longer we go without meeting our nutrient needs, the weaker we can become and the slower our recovery may be.

Regardless of whether you have a cold or a fever, you should make sure you’re consuming enough nutrients to give your body the energy it needs to fuel its immune defences. In the spirit of boosting white blood cells, make a habit of incorporating these cold-fighting foods into your diet whenever you’re fending off the sniffles. Better yet? Eat them on a regular basis so your immune system is always firing on all cylinders.

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8 Foods to Boost Immunity and Fight the Common Cold

1. Chicken Soup

Chicken soup isn’t just good for the soul. It’s good if you’re feeling under the weather, too. Research has found that chicken soup helps to prevent inflammatory white cells from moving to other parts of your body, which can decrease your cold symptoms.

The bone broth in chicken soup contains collagen, which can help boost your immune system, in addition to amino acids and nutrients that help prevent inflammation. Chicken soup’s illness-fighting ability is thought to be related to cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking. The hot liquid in soup also helps you to stay hydrated, which can help loosen any secretions. Making bone broth at home is really easy — just follow this recipe.

2. Yogurt

Yogurt is a natural source of probiotics, also known as “good bacteria” that live in your gut. Studies have linked good gut health to boosting immunity, better sleep, good digestion — the list goes on. The probiotics found in yogurt help to keep our intestinal tracts free of disease-causing bacteria and germs. Studies have also found that increased yogurt intake may improve our body’s immune response.

We recommend choosing yogurts with a “live and active cultures” seal and avoiding heavily sweetened varieties. Be wary of foods that are infused with probiotics, though. Not all probiotics are made equal, and products that contain them don’t always have enough active cultures to make a real difference. Not a fan of yogurt or are dairy-free? It’s best to stick to other natural sources, like kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut.

3. Fatty Fish

Your heart isn’t the only thing that can benefit from a dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help control inflammation in your body. It’s important to consume inflammation-fighting foods on a regular basis, but especially when you’re feeling under the weather as “chronic inflammation can weaken and disrupt the function of your immune system.

4. Garlic

Good news if you love garlic sourdough bread and dipping veggie sticks in aioli. Garlic contains allicin, a compound that can help fight infection and bacteria. One study showed that people who ate garlic daily were less likely to catch a cold. Eat raw garlic if you’re feeling really daring, or add it to soups and other cooked meals to reap the benefits without the vampire-slaying breath.

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5. Food Rich in Zinc

Zinc isn’t a mineral you want to do away with. Some studies show that zinc may help reduce the duration of a cold if taken right away. Zinc helps regulate the immune system, build and maintain lean body mass and heal wounds. Foods high in zinc include oysters, red meat, eggs, fortified cereal, beans and pumpkin seeds.

6. Turmeric

This flavourful spice is considered a superfood for a good reason. It’s rich in antioxidants and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests these qualities make turmeric a strong defence against colds, coughs, and congestion. Try it in a turmeric latte, aka golden milk, or use it to season lean meats, grains and other healthy foods.

7. Fruits and Vegetables

It won’t surprise anyone to learn that vitamin-rich foods are key to maintaining a strong immune system. We always stress that vitamins A, C, and E are particularly useful in building immunity. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of these nutrients. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin C can be found in high quantities in citrus fruits, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Dark leafy greens, butternut squash and avocado are excellent sources of vitamin E. Pairing these and other fruits and vegetables with adequate protein intake will help supercharge your immunity.

8. Plenty of Liquids

In addition to consuming healthy foods, it’s also critical to stay hydrated in order to help keep your throat and airways clear, says Yeung. But not all beverages help fight illness. Hot tea is a great way to stay hydrated, provide warmth and comfort to an irritated and inflamed throat and help relieve congestion.

Try to avoid sweetened beverages, like sports drinks and juice, as too much sugar in your body can cause inflammation… which further weakens your immune system.

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