It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season! According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and November and can continue until as late as May. Seasonal flu activity most commonly peaks between December and February. In other words, we’re in the thick of it!
There are tons of things we can do to protect ourselves during cold and flu season. And most of them aren’t huge secrets either. Instead, they’re things we’ve heard our entire lives. Eat a variety of vegetables, prioritize sleep, don’t share personal items with anyone, spend time outside, stay active, keep your stress levels under control, wash your hands, etc.
Your immune system is what protects you against things like disease and infection. It’s also what helps you bounce back after an injury. One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from getting sick this season is to feed your body with immune boosting foods.
When most people start feeling sick, they quickly turn to vitamin C. It’s a common belief that vitamin C helps treat colds, but believe it or not, there isn’t much reliable science to back that up. That being said, there is some research that shows vitamin C supplementation can reduce the severity and duration of a cold.
You can find vitamin C in most citrus fruits. For example, one medium orange has 116% of the vitamin C you need for the day. Grapefruits are also high in vitamin C coming in at 64% in just one half of a medium grapefruit.
Garlic has been a popular choice for many years thanks to both its depth of flavor and diverse health benefits. When garlic is crushed, chopped, or chewed a compound called alliin gets converted into allicin, which is the main active ingredient in garlic. Depending on the dose, allicin can stop the growth of both bacteria and fungi or kill cells outright. In addition to supporting and enhancing immune function, garlic can also help prevent you from catching a cold or the flu. Like vitamin C, garlic has the ability to both prevent you from getting sick and to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.
To get the most out of your garlic consumption, try to crush or chop your garlic and let it rest for at least 5-10 minutes before cooking it. This will increase the amount of alliin that gets converted to allicin.
Blueberries are another go-to food if you want to stay healthy this flu season. Blueberries are extremely rich in antioxidants called flavonoids. They are particularly high in a specific type of flavonoids called anthocyanins, which play an essential role in your immune system’s function. You can also find high levels of anthocyanins in elderberries and strawberries.
Green tea is another great source of immune system boosting flavonoids. It’s also a good source of L-theanine, an amino acid that’s been shown to have a variety of health benefits including improved immune function. Drinking green tea regularly is a great (and delicious) way to stay hydrated while also getting in a hefty dose of flavonoids and L-theanine.
Raw honey is another one of those tried-and-true ingredients used for both its flavor and health benefits. Raw honey is jam packed with antioxidants that can help boost your immune system. Like garlic, raw honey has the ability to kill bacteria and fungi. It can also help soothe a sore throat that commonly comes along with a cold.
Immune Boosting Tea
Having a hot cup of green tea with honey and a squeeze of lemon juice is a great way to support your immune system! Below is a quick recipe for a citrus-infused, honey-sweetened green tea. Once recipe yields 2 cups of tea.
- 2 cups water
- 2-4 green tea bags, depending on how strong you like your tea
- 1-2 tsp raw honey, depending on desired sweetness
- 2 lemon slices
In a teapot, bring water to a boil. Place tea bag(s) in each mug. Pour hot water over tea bags and allow to steep for about 3 minutes. Remove tea bags after gently squeezing them over the mug. Stir in honey and squeeze a lemon slice over each mug. Enjoy!