5 Immune-Boosting Foods to Eat This Season
I have the sniffles. While I love fall and just about everything that comes with it – I almost always catch a cold around the same time that the seasons change, especially from summer to fall and from winter to spring. So far, my sniffles and sneezes have been the extent of my symptoms for the last two weeks and it has yet to reach a full-blown cough and cold. Thank you, Universe.
I plan to keep it that way, because I hate being sick. Anyone with me?
So far this year I’ve only had one brutal cold. I actually came down with it the week after St. Patrick’s Day, so we’re gonna go ahead and rule out alcohol and sleep deprivation as immune-boosters right here right now, in case it wasn’t obvious enough. It was actually my first week at a new job too, so there was no calling in sick – just loading up on meds and tissues and tea.
Anyways, in an attempt to keep us all feeling healthy during the beautiful time of year that also doubles as flu season, I’ve compiled a list of foods containing micronutrients and other compounds that help support our immune systems and prevent and/or fight off coughs and colds.
- Pumpkin or Squash Seeds
Well, isn’t this fitting for the season! Pumpkin and squash seeds are good plant-based sources of the mineral zinc, which is an important micronutrient that plays a role in supporting our immune system. The immune systems of most individuals can be maintained by adequate zinc intake, meaning intake that meets the RDAs or Recommended Dietary Allowance. For women 19 and older, the RDA is 8 mg per day and for men it’s 11 mg. ¼ cup of pumpkin or squash seeds contain anywhere from 2.7-4.4 milligrams of zinc.
So, here’s a tip: If you’re carving a pumpkin or roasting up some butternut squash, save the seeds. Rinse them, lay them out to dry and then drizzle them with oil, sprinkle with spices of choice and roast in the oven for a crunchy, nutritious snack or salad-topper! Not a fan of seeds? Other good dietary sources of zinc are red meat, oysters, tempeh, lobster/crab, wheat germ, and bran cereals.
- Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are high in selenium. Selenium is a mineral that plays ab important role in inflammatory and immune responses. It’s also an antioxidant, meaning it helps to protect against cell damage in our bodies. For individuals with low selenium levels, selenium supplementation has been seen to improve cellular immune responses. While I don’t recommend going out and buying a supplement, getting enough through food is important.
Fatty fish is also high in omega-3s. omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to protect our lungs from things like infection and colds. You can also find selenium in Brazil nuts, eggs, oysters and whole wheat bread. Sources of omega-3s also include walnuts, flax seeds/oil and omega-3 eggs.
- Yogurt & Fermented Foods
Yogurt and other fermented foods are food-sources of probiotics. As you may know, probiotics are the “good bacteria” that support a healthy digestive tract. There is good evidence to support that probiotics work to regulate both our intestinal and systemic (throughout the body) immune systems. It’s also been noted that probiotic treatment may reduce the duration of respiratory tract infections.
Yogurt is probably the most popular food source of probiotics, but fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and kombucha are also rich in probiotics. I love sipping on kombucha over ice or adding Greek yogurt to my overnight oats!
- Citrus Fruit
You all know where I’m going with this one. Yup, Vitamin C. While daily consumption of Vitamin C does not reduce the risk of acquiring a cold in the general population, there is evidence that it may slightly reduce the duration and severity of symptoms experienced by those who do acquire a cold. Additionally, if you’re an athlete or someone who experiences intense physical stress, there is some evidence to support that daily consumption of 200mg or more of Vitamin C (1 large orange = 100mg Vitamin C) may reduce the incidence of colds by as much as 50%.
While citrus fruits like oranges are known to be high in Vitamin C, lots of other foods like bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and kiwi are good sources, too.
- Chicken Noodle Soup
Maybe not just an old wives tale! While there is limited evidence to support the efficacy of chicken soup as a cure for the common cold, there are some studies that have suggested it may be helpful in improving symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and chills. Sign me up for that!
I recommend a homemade chicken noodle soup as you can better control the sodium content – I talked more about sodium here. If you do purchase a canned soup, look for the “reduced-sodium” version as most brands will have one! If you follow a vegetarian diet – try this vegan Chickpea Noodle Soup recipe!
I hope this was helpful and I hope you all have a happy and healthy fall and winter! Until next time!