It may be surprising to learn that 70 to 80 percent of the body’s immune system is housed in the gut. So when it comes to staying healthy during cold and flu season, it starts with flu-fighting foods.
Providing the body with nutrient-rich foods that promote healthy digestion, proper detoxification, and minerals and vitamins to build a foundation of gut health is the body’s first defense against colds and flus. Gut health is also important for long-term health and closely linked to inflammatory diseases such as autoimmune disorders and chronic conditions.
While washing your hands, getting proper rest, and managing stress levels are also important habits to staying healthy, the easiest thing to do every day to build your immunity and protect yourself is to eat healthy, properly prepared foods.
With these 10 flu-fighting foods you will ensure your body is getting the proper nutrients it needs to fight off any colds or viruses and has the ability to properly digest and process the foods for proper use.
Whether you’re feeling under the weather or want to take preventative action to avoid getting sick, health starts today with these 10 flu-fighting foods:
- Bone broth: This protein-rich food has tons of minerals that support the immune system. Additionally, the collagen in bone broth reduces inflammation in the gut lining and promotes proper digestion. An added bonus of bone broth is that it’s inexpensive and easy to make, making it the number one flu-fighting food on the list. Recipes for homemade bone broth are easy and typically low maintenance involving bones, water, whatever vegetables you have on hand, seasonings, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. The broth cooks for 18-24 hours to extract the maximum amount of nutrients from the bones. If cooking it isn’t your thing, purchase commercially made bone broth at nearly any health food store or farmer’s market.
- Sauerkraut and kombucha: Loading up on probiotics from foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and grass-fed yogurt is a great way to support your immune system and fight or prevent a cold. While incorporating fermented foods, such as these is an important everyday habit to promote long-term health, it’s especially important when you’re feeling sick. Ensuring you have plenty of friendly bacteria in your gut will allow your body to rebound even faster and ward off any potential cold.
- Green juice: Green juices featuring mostly vegetables are rich in potassium, vitamins C, A, and K and helpful in boosting your immune system. If making green juice at home, add in four to five different vegetables (kale, spinach, celery, fennel, and cucumber is a great start), to one serving of fruit for a health-promoting ratio that won’t wreck your blood sugar. If selecting a green juice from the store, double check the ingredient list and nutrition label to ensure that it is low in natural sugar and free of added sugars. A general guideline is to stick to less than 10 grams of sugar per 16-ounce bottle. Find more immune boosting juice recipes here.
- Garlic: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, fresh garlic is an excellent flu-fighting food. When you feel a cold coming on, mix together one tablespoon of local, raw honey with three to four cloves of fresh minced garlic. Let the mixture rest for 10 to 15 minutes, and eat one teaspoon every couple of hours. While you’ll likely sweat out some of the garlic through your pores, the combination of inflammation-reducing garlic with a natural allergen-fighting honey can ward off even the strongest of colds and help soothe a sore throat.
- Apple cider vinegar: In addition to aiding with digestion and reducing acid reflux, apple cider vinegar can improve nutrient absorption and provide antioxidants to the body. Mix together one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in an eight-ounce glass of water and drink it first thing in the morning to get the lasting benefits throughout the day. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try out this recipe which combines garlic, water, apple cider vinegar, lemon, and honey for a powerful anti-virus concoction.
- Coconut oil: While coconut oil is popularly used for everything from skin outbreaks to replacing conditioner for glossy, healthy hair, it’s also a natural anti-inflammatory. When the body is an inflamed state fighting off a cold or virus, the high levels of antioxidants found in coconut oil may help suppress inflammation and restore your health. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which aids in fighting bacteria and creating an inhospitable environment for viruses. When you’re sick, take a tip from Dr. Axe by replacing processed sugar and grains in your diet with coconut oil as your primary fuel source instead.
- Ginger: According to The George Mateljan Foundation, ginger can help promote healthy sweating, a helpful method of detoxification during colds and flus. Prepare a simple ginger tea by steeping one small piece of fresh ginger in an eight-ounce cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes. Add a teaspoon of local raw honey if desired. Ginger can also help manage symptoms associated with gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea or upset stomach.
- Citrus fruits: Fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines are high in vitamin C which helps fight off colds and viruses. The amount of vitamin C in each fruit is approximately 53 milligrams from one small orange, 34 milligrams from one-half of a small grapefruit, and 27 milligrams from one large tangerine. On average men require about 90 milligrams and women need 75 milligrams of vitamin C daily. Incorporate the fruits as fresh squeezed juices diluted with water, sliced and tossed into a salad, or chopped up with a serving of grass-fed yogurt.
- Onions: Another source of vitamin C, onions can help improve immunity and reduce inflammation, all while adding loads of flavor to your favorite dishes. When selecting an onion for its health properties, consider choosing shallots or Western yellow onions for their flavonoid content, according to research from Cornell. Toss diced onions into your favorite soup, add a handful to an omelette, or serve them alongside your favorite protein and veggies for a satisfying meal.
- Ghee: A form of clarified butter that tastes great and has a high smoke point, ghee is traditionally used in Indian cuisine. It contains butyrate, which helps detoxify the body and improve the overall health of the digestive system. This ensures the body can properly eliminate toxins from the system, which is especially important when fighting a cold or flu. Learn how to make ghee or shop for it online or in a local grocery store.