Even though humans put a man on the moon and invented the wonders that are Netflix and Seamless, we still haven’t been able to figure out a cure for the common cold or flu. Kind of crazy, right?
Fortunately, there’s some good news when it comes to coping with those unpleasant seasonal sniffles: by eating the right foods, you can bolster your immune system and slash your chances for getting sick in the first place.
Here are 6 powerful picks to fill up on this fall and winter:
A medium orange packs more than a day’s worth of your recommended vitamin C. And while vitamin C can’t actually cure a cold, it does help your body produce the white blood cells that your immune system needs to combat germs that can make you sick. Still, you can have too much of a good thing. It’s almost impossible to overdose on vitamin C through food alone, but if you’re thinking about taking a supplement, talk with your doctor. Megadoses of vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal issues like bloating and diarrhea.
It’s no secret that the probiotics found in fermented foods like yogurt do wonders for digestive health, but they also appear to strengthen your immune system and help lower your risk for catching a cold or the flu. Just be sure to pick plain, unsweetened yogurt. Flavored varieties tend to be high in sugar, which some experts suspect could temporarily suppress your immune system’s ability to fight off bugs.
A quarter cup of the crunchy green seeds serves up nearly 25% of your daily zinc, a mineral that your body needs in order to produce those all-important white blood cells. And if you do happen to get sick? Talk to your doctor about trading up to a zinc supplement. Studies show that taking zinc at the first sign of a cold might reduce the duration of symptoms and help you feel better faster.
Stinky breath might be a small price to pay for these big benefits. Garlic is rich in allicin, a compound that has been shown to fight off viruses and bacteria. In fact, when University of Florida researchers gave healthy subjects a daily dose of garlic extract or a placebo for 12 weeks, those who took the garlic extract were nearly 60% less likely to get sick.
Sure, hot tea can soothe a scratchy throat and ease nasal congestion, but it might also keep you healthier to begin with. Green tea is brimming epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol with powerful antiviral properties. Try brewing a cup with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice: Findings show that naturally occurring acids found in citrus help the body absorb up to 76% more of green tea’s EGCG.
A bowl of oatmeal a day just might keep the doctor at bay. That’s because oats are a top source of beta glucans, a special type of fiber that boasts powerful immunomodulatory properties. When your immune system senses a cold or flu virus, beta glucans give white blood cells extra energy to fight off the foreign invader.