foods to fight colds and flu
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Eight Foods to Fight Colds and Flu

Minimize risk of illness with these nutritious foods.

By Barbra Cohn

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Frequent handwashing can help ward off colds and flu, but encountering harmful germs is inevitable this time of year. That’s why it’s important to eat foods that support the immune system. To minimize risk of illness this winter, add more of these foods to your diet.


contain a flavonoid called quercetin that opens airways, and their fiber may help your body reduce inflammation, which occurs during infections. According to a 2015 study of 8,700 adults 18 years and older, people who eat an apple a day need fewer prescription drugs.


is a superfood packed with vitamins A, C and E. Plus, eating broccoli can increase the body’s levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that supports your immune system to ward off colds and flu. Steam it lightly and top with toasted cashews for added protein.

Pumpkin Seeds

provide 15 percent of our daily requirement of zinc in just a 1-ounce serving. Some studies have linked adequate zinc intake to reduced severity and duration of colds. Add them to your oatmeal or salads, or eat them raw or roasted.


has been used for centuries by many cultures to treat a variety of illnesses. It is touted as a natural antibiotic, because of its sulfur-containing compounds. A study published in American Family Physician reported that regular use—one to two cloves of raw garlic per day—may decrease the frequency of colds in adults.

Red Bell Peppers

are a rich source of beta-carotene. Ounce for ounce, they contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. Eat them raw, dip them in hummus, or add them to stir-fries.


are potent immune enhancers, according to numerous studies. Button mushrooms provide the immune-strengthening antioxidant selenium. Shiitake and reishi mushrooms contain beta-glucan, a fiber-like complex sugar that stimulates phagocytes, which engulf and destroy germs.


is a good source of vitamin D and probiotics, both of which support a healthy immune system. Look for brands fortified with vitamin D and that contain live and active cultures.


provides extra vitamin C. According to a study in Finland with more than 11,000 participants, vitamin C can boost immunity and reduce the length and severity of colds. Squeeze lemon juice into hot water; scoop out a grapefruit; peel an orange. Any of these will do you good.

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