You can try wiping down your treadmill and weights, or throwing side eye at anyone coughing or sneezing in your general vicinity. But the best defence going into cold and flu season is good health, starting with what you put on your plate.
Right now, transitioning into autumn, it’s time to jump start your immune system,” says Rebecca Katz, MS, wellness expert, and author of Clean Soups. “Everything you eat counts, and you want to strengthen your system, and get it ready to fight! Don’t wait for all those cold germs to start flying around the office, or for your kid to come home from school with a cough.”
Can certain foods boost your immune system?
No single ingredient is going to make you invincible because foods work synergistically together. Give yourself the best balance and protection that you can. Look at all of the beautiful winter squashes, root vegetables, dark greens, and vibrant citrus at the farmers’ market. By eating a range of colourful fruits and veggies, fatty fish, and fermented foods, you’ll make sure you’re stocked on vitamins and minerals. Here are a few key foods that can help to keep you fighting fit this season:
Sardines Vitamin D is extremely important for immune health and is found in sardines, or other cold-water fish, like salmon, halibut, and tuna.
Winter squash Acorn, butternut, pumpkin, and other orange-fleshed squashes are rich in vitamins A, C, and K.
Dark greensSpinach, kale, and chard are anti-inflammatory. Cooking your greens in a little olive oil, is a good way to make sure you’re getting fat-soluble vitamins.
Garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Drops a handful of cloves into your next pot of homemade soup.
Mushrooms contain a little vitamin D, but also have well-documented medicinal properties. In particular, studies show that shiitake mushrooms boost immune health.
Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt, provide natural probiotics, and a happy and healthy gut supports your whole body.
“The gut isn’t only the second brain,” emphasises Katz. “It’s really the heart of your entire immune system.”
What about Vitamins & Herbs?
What’s not going to work:
Pounding vitamin C when you start to feel sick. If you’re already at a deficit, you can’t make up for that last minute! The best thing you can do when you’re starting to feel sick is to hydrate with warm liquids—drink up, especially if you’re stressed or flying. Try sipping on cinnamon, ginger, or green tea, or even hot water with a big squeeze of lemon and a touch of honey.
Of course, beyond food, drinks, and vitamins, there are other ways to take care of yourself:
Tis the season to go get a flu jab and wash your hands carefully. For your body to fight off bad guys, you also want to sleep, exercise and find ways to blow off stress and steam. Taking time out to put your feet up. When you’re sitting down for a meal, take a deep breath and be mindful of what you’re eating. You control what you put on the end of your fork. You already know that you need the right kind of fuel in your body to perform the way you want to perform, whether you’re training for a marathon or walking up a hill. So the same way that you’d fuel up for a workout, fuel up for cold and flu season.