Can minor dietary changes really fight infection? Experts says these particular foods and drinks will.
But as flu season wears on – it can last as late as May – there are more ways to bolster your defenses.
“Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune response,” says Heather Mangieri, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “A strong immune system doesn’t guarantee your body can fight off every flu bug, but it is a powerful defense.”
“Protein is always necessary to keep your body strong,” says WebMD. “Proteins are essential to help your body maintain and build strength.”
For the maximum benefit, eat a variety of protein sources, as different protein sources contain different amino acids – also known as the building blocks of life.
Healthy sources of animal protein include lean meats, seafood, poultry, and eggs. Plant-based proteins include nuts, seeds, beans, and soy products.
This antioxidant helps to keep the tissues in your mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory system healthy, which helps them keep out viruses like the flu.
Foods rich in Vitamin A include sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, pumpkin pie (yes, pie), cantaloupe, red sweet peppers, mangoes, black-eyed peas, apricots, and broccoli.
This antioxidant, also known as ascorbic acid, stimulates antibodies and boosts immunity.
Besides orange juice and oranges, foods rich in Vitamin C include red sweet peppers, grapefruit juice, kiwi, green sweet peppers, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, tomato juice, and cantaloupe.
This essential mineral improves immune function – which means a lack of it hurts immune function.
Foods rich in zinc include oysters, Alaska king crab, lobster, pork chop loin, dark chicken meat, yogurt, and cashews.
Scientific studies praise green tea for its high levels of polyphenol antioxidants, especially catechins, which have anti-viral properties that can help prevent the flu virus or stop it from replicating.
Dr. Oz also recently suggested adding elderberry tea to your “flu essentials kit,” especially if you’re already sick. Studies show an elderberry extract called Sambucol can help stop certain strains of the flu from replicating.