Cold- and Flu-Fighting Foods


CA Strawberry Commission

What you eat profoundly affects your ability to fight disease. With all the nasty bugs going around this cold and flu season, it’s especially important to pay attention to boosting your immune system through nutrition. While every nutrient is important in your body’s ability to prevent and fight disease – from colds to cancer – certain nutrients play key roles. Eat foods high in these nutrients every day:

Protein is one of the most important nutrients in the human body, second only to water. The antibodies which protect your body against pathogens are made of protein, so without enough protein, your body has no chance.  Eat protein at every meal. It is in a wide range of foods. Animal protein is in seafood, dairy, meat, poultry and eggs. Vegetarian protein can be found in legumes, soy, vegetables and grains.

The beneficial bacteria in live, active yogurt cultures may protect against infection-causing toxins, improve colon health, protect the intestinal lining, and strengthen immunity.

Fats and Oils
The type of fat you eat can improve the effectiveness of your body’s immune response because fat ends up in all of your body’s cell walls. To maximize your immune response, use oils in your cooking, instead of solid fat such as butter, stick with foods high in heart-healthy oils, such as nuts, avocados and seafood, which is high in omega-3-fatty acids.

Beta Carotene
Orange and deep green veggies and fruits, particularlyCarrot juice, carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin (or any orange-colored winter squash), sweet potato, greens such as spinach, collards, kale, turnip greens, beet greens, orange melons such as cantaloupe, red peppers, apricots, broccoli, plums, mangos papayas, plantains, Brussels sprouts, watermelon, asparagus

Vitamin C
Citrus fruits such as orange, lemons and grapefruit, peaches, sweet and hot peppers, papayas, pineapple, strawberries, broccoli,kiwi fruit, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi,

Oysters, lobster, crab, clams, fortified whole grain cereals, beans (legumes such as lentils, chick peas, black-eyed peas, soy beans, kidney beans, limas, pintos), turkey, lean beef and pork, whole grains such as buckwheat, whole wheat, cracked wheat (bulgur), oats, whole grain cornmeal, wild rice, yogurt, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, mixed nuts, peanuts

Whole grains such as buckwheat, wheat, oats, cornmeal, barley, brown rice, Also soybeans, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, cashews, greens such as spinach, beet greens, fish such as halibut, haddock and flounder and sole species, beans (legumes such as black beans, white beans, soy beans, navy beans, limas, black-eyed, great northern, kidney, chick peas,. lentils)

Vitamin E
Sunflower seeds, almonds, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, hazelnuts, pine nuts, spinach, turnip greens, beet greens, dandelion greens, canned pumpkin, carrot juice, broccoli, sweet potato, sweet red peppers, mangos, papayas

Vitamin D
New research indicates Vitamin D may augments the body’s ability to eliminate disease-infecting microbes. We get it from the sun and a few foods: fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milk, orange juice, and cereals.

Have antibacterial qualities. Eat them dried for the highest levels of nutritious compounds.

White Mushrooms
Research at Tufts University shows white button mushrooms boost the immune system

Immune-Boosting Eating Strategies

* Eat a lean protein source at every meal – including breakfast, lunch and dinner. 20 grams for women and 30 grams for men is the amount most bio-available per sitting.

* Eat 5 cups of fruits and veggies per day – especially colorful varieties, eat at every meal and snack

* Eat a vegetarian meal every day using beans or soy beans for protein,

* Eat fish high in omega-3-fatty acids, such as salmon, herring, anchovies and sardines, at least two to four times per week, and vegetarian sources such as walnuts, ground flax seeds and canola oil,

* Use canola oil in your cooking and a fresh, newly harvested olive oil for drizzling,

* Eat whole grains at breakfast (such as cereal with skim milk or soy milk) and with sandwiches or wraps at lunch,

* Snacks: Try fat-free yogurt and fruit, fat-free yogurt dip or hummus with veggies,

* Toss nuts/seeds/dried cranberries in your whole grain cereal, your salad or your afternoon yogurt snack

* Skim milk or Soy lattes or teas are great snacks, too…

* Take a multivitamin-mineral supplement daily.

* Take a Vitamin D Supplement so that you are getting  1,000 to 2,000 IU/day

* If you are over 50, but particularly 65, look into supplementing your diet with Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Zinc and probiotics such as lactobacillus in yogurt.

Of course, don’t forget to keep your blood moving by being moderately physically active with plenty of walking, yoga, etc. Get plenty of rest, wash your hands frequently, drink fluids (especially warm fluids which will send light steam into your nasal passages) and spend time with friends and loved ones. Studies have shown these habits increase your ability to conquer diseases – from colds to cancer.


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