Winter is here, and that means it’s time to stock up on foods that have the potential to keep you strong in the face of cold and flu season. The good news is, foods that help your immune system along are also delicious, so it won’t be hard to incorporate immune-friendly foods into your days.
Here are 10 foods that you can work into your weekly menus to keep yourself and your family strong this winter.
Berries contain vitamin C and B vitamins, which are believed to contribute to a well-functioning immune system. Plus, they're delicious, so it's easy to add in some blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to end your meals on a sweet note.
Ginger root has been used for thousands of years to ease all sorts of ails, including cold and flu symptoms. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, which could help soothe scratchy throats or potentially calm a cough. It may also help combat nausea and other digestive discomforts that can sometimes come with winter colds.
Elderberries are an age-old remedy that have long been part of moms' and grandmas' kitchen arsenals for all kinds of illnesses. Studies show that they can reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms, so stock up on some dried elderberries or make your own elderberry syrup for a healthy dose of this natural remedy.
No Sugar Added Elderberry Syrup Recipe
- 2 1/2 c water
- 1/2 c dried elderberries
- 2 t ground ginger
- Orange or lemon zest (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- Lakanto Classic Sweetener, to taste
Bring water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Liquid should reduce. Turn off heat and immediately add zest (if using) and sweetener. Allow to cool and store in a mason jar in the refrigerator.
Turmeric is a spice that gives Indian and Middle Eastern dishes their vibrant golden color. In addition to culinary applications, it has been traditionally used for centuries to treat infections, inflammation, and even liver conditions. Many people who have taken this spice as a natural remedy swear by it as an immune system booster that can help keep you healthy all winter long.
Turmeric has a bold, earthy flavor, so if you don't like the taste, you can try a turmeric tea, also known as golden milk.
Turmeric Tea Golden Milk
In a sauce pan, combine:
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger powder
- Pinch of black pepper
Whisk with a few tablespoons of water until a paste forms. Then, add 3c of almond, oat, coconut or dairy milk to the saucepan and heat (do not boil). Add Lakanto Classic Monk Fruit Sweetener to taste and whisk the mixture to incorporate. Pour into two mugs, grab a blanket and sip slowly.
Honey is much more than just something that bee colonies spend all spring and summer making. Honey also has some anti-microbial properties. In fact, many people swear by taking a natural remedy of warm water with lemon and raw honey when they start to feel first signs of a cold—the throat tickle, the tired feeling, and the aches.
Keep in mind that one tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of sugar, so if you’re keeping tabs on your sugar and carbs, using honey as a remedy may throw you off track.
Citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons, are a great source of vitamin C. This vital nutrient has been shown to help reduce the duration and severity of colds. Vitamin C is one way to support your immune system all year long.
It’s easy to add lemon to your morning water or add a squeeze to your salad for a brighter dressing.
Garlic is another cold-busting food that can help you this winter. Garlic contains several compounds, including allicin, which have antibacterial properties and can help fight off viruses. In addition to this, garlic also contains antioxidants, which are beneficial for the immune system.
To get the most out of garlic, smash or chop to break the cell walls and release the active compound, allicin. Let it sit for a full 10 minutes before adding to your recipe, as allicin needs time to activate.
Oregano is another immune-boosting food that has antimicrobial properties, which could give your immune system some backup when you’re fighting off a cold. The herb contains antioxidants and phytonutrients, which have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial potential that may help defend against bacterial infections. In addition to this, oregano also contains vitamin C, which supports the immune system.
Oysters are another food that could be beneficial for the immune system. Reason being, oysters are a rich source of zinc, which is a crucial nutrient for proper immune function. In addition to this, oysters contain omega-3 fatty acids, which could help moderate the inflammatory response.
Sometimes, there’s no avoiding a cold or flu. Kids in daycare tend to bring home funk, viruses rip through the workplace…unless you live in a bubble, you’re going to come into contact with something. The key is to optimize your nutrition so your body can defend what it can, and have the strength to fight off what you do catch. The best you can hope for is to minimize your downtime and get back to crushing it every day, as soon as possible.
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- Jang HJ, Lee HJ, Yoon DK, Ji DS, Kim JH, Lee CH. Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of fresh garlic and aged garlic by-products extracted with different solvents. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2017;27(1):219-225. Published 2017 Dec 12. doi:10.1007/s10068-017-0246-4
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