Fend Off Flu With These Nutritional Remedies!

When the cold and flu season comes around, many people get sick. And this year, flu is still on the rise, according to the newest report from the US Centers for Disease Control. However, many of us can probably name someone around us who never really get sick no matter how many sniffy people they are surrounded by. Have you ever wondered why? The reason is individual’s immune system. Having a strong immune system is the best way to fend off flu virus or other disease-causing microorganisms. While the immune system is quite complex and is affected by many factors, adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle is the best natural way to keep it strong and healthy. See the following food remedies to help strengthen your immunity all year round and to recover from an illness quicker! 

1. Colorful fruits and vegetables 
Many have heard a saying that goes “an apple a day to keep the doctor away.” In fact, it takes more than that. A well-balanced diet that includes colorful fruits and vegetables ensures that you get a well mix of essential vitamins, including vitamin A and C, which are powerful antioxidants to help the body build immune cells. Furthermore, many studies show that vitamin C helps to reduce cold symptoms as well. Colorful bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, papaya, citrus fruits, kiwi, tomatoes are just some examples to help you boost your immunity!

2. Probiotics.
Increasing body of research shows that gut health is closely linked to immune function. Probiotics are good and friendly bacteria that helps you maintain the balance of gut microbiome for a happier and healthier gut, which resides about 80% of your immune cells. When the body is in a shortage of good bacteria or imbalance of gut microbiome, your immune system may be compromised and you may be more prone to having minor illness such cold and flu. Add probiotic-rich foods into your diet, including fermented dairy products like yogurt, kefir and cheese, and fermented vegetables such as kimchi, as well as prebiotic foods to stimulate your probiotics to grow and thrive in the gut in order to maintain a proper balance of gut microbiota. 

3. Mushrooms
Mushrooms are not only tasty and nutritious, they are also linked to boosting the immune system. Studies shows that mushrooms can increase the production of cytokines, which help the body battle off infections. They are also rich in polysaccharides that can enhance immune function. Similar to fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are rich in antioxidants that can help lowering inflammation. In addition, mushrooms are high in some B vitamins including niacin and pantothenic acid, and the mineral selenium that can further support the immune system. Some common mushrooms that we see on the market are shiitake, maitake, oyster, cremini, and white button mushrooms. 

4. Ginger
Ginger is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial propertiies, as shown in a 2013 review published by the International Journal of Preventive Medicine. Because of this, ginger is an effective herbal remedy for a wide range of medical conditions including the common cold and flu. Ginger can ease sore throat because of its anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains gingerol and shogaol, which are antimicrobial chemicals that can help fighting cold and flu viruses. Ginger is very versatile for culinary use! Add this spice to flavor your stir-fry dishes, stews, soups and more to get its health benefits. In times of cold or flu, make yourself a warm cup of ginger tea with a good tablespoon of freshly shredded ginger root! 

Besides the above nutrition tips, it is also important to have adequate sleep to help the body restore energy since sleep deprivation can suppress immune function. In addition, adopting an active lifestyle with regular exercise can also help your build strong immune system and may reduce your chances of getting sick.


By Dorothy Ian Chan, RDN / Hazel Ng, RD CDE

Copyright © | Bor S. Luh Food Safety Research Center  of Shanghai Jiao Tong University 2015