Winter is here and that means warm drinks and nights snuggled up on the couch. Unfortunately, the cold weather can also mean seasonal coughs, colds, and the dreaded flu.
As the seasons change, the bountiful fresh produce of the summer and fall fade away and it’s easy to start skimping on essential nutrients in favor of comfort foods. This can take a toll on your immune system since it relies on specific nutrients to function optimally.
The good news is that this is an easy fix. With a little intention, you can inject immune-boosting foods into your diet to help your body fight off germs and seasonal bugs. Here are a few that you can incorporate into your diet each day to start your day off on an immune-boosting note.
Broccoli can easily be incorporated into every meal of the day. Studies have shown that a compound in broccoli, called 3,3′-diindolylmethane, increases levels of proteins that help regulate the immune system. In one study from researchers at UC Berkeley, mice fed a broccoli-derived solution were able to clear viruses from their intestines more efficiently.
How to eat it: Try adding broccoli to your morning omelette; just chop it up into fine pieces and cook it in a healthy fat for a few minutes before you add the eggs. Top with some Feta cheese or sliced avocado and you’ve got yourself a delicious (and 3,3′-diindolylmethane-rich!) breakfast.
Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of beta carotene, a compound that has displayed immune-boosting properties in multiple studies and explains the bright orange color of foods like carrots and sweet potatoes. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, which also plays a key role in a healthy immune system (in fact, low blood levels of vitamin A have been linked to lowered immunity).
How to eat it: There are so many ways to use sweet potatoes from breakfast to lunch to dinner.
Just half a grapefruit contains 50 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, which is the vitamin most famous for supporting a healthy immune system. Studies have shown that 200 mg of vitamin C per day can shorten the duration of colds by an average of 8% in adults and 14% in children.
How to eat it: Peel and slice half a grapefruit and add it to full-fat Greek yogurt; or, try making a salad with quinoa, grapefruit, and pecans.
If you’re feeling the sniffles coming on, herbs like thyme are great ingredients to add to your meals. Thyme has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries and according to the authors of one study, “it possesses some antiseptic, bronchiolitic, antispasmodic, and antimicrobial properties that make it popular as a medicinal herb…” Health-focused teas like Yogi’s Breathe Deep Tea contain thyme for these reasons and more.
How to eat it: You can sprinkle Thyme on basically anything; add some dried thyme to your egg scramble or sprinkle some fresh time onto your avocado toast.
Elderberry has shown promise for fending off the seasonal cold and flu. In fact, a double-blind randomized controlled trial showed that elderberry supplementation led to a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers. It also just so happens to make a syrup that’s insanely delicious and even better—versatile.
How to eat it: Drizzle this elderberry syrup from Gaia Herbs ($21.99) on your oatmeal or add it to your morning matcha or herbal tea for a bit of tart sweetness.
Including these immune-supporting foods over the course of your day can give your immune system a boost, helping it prepare to find off all those seasonal bugs.