The chillier months don’t exactly make it a piece of cake to stay healthy all season long. As temperatures cool off and time spent indoors increases, our bodies are faced to adjust and don’t always do so well without fresh sunlight and fresh air. Bacteria in the air is also more abundant during the colder months, which makes avoiding the flu (or even a general cold) more difficult to avoid. The Center for Disease Control reports that 5-20 percent of Americans get the flu every single year, and 200,000 people are hospitalized for it. It’s no surprise considering that the winter season is also the same time of year that healthy eating gets put on the backburner and high-fat, high-sugar foods (often those filled with eggs, butter, milk, meat, and cheese) also make up a large part of the American diet.
While single foods alone may not be able to ward off the flu, an overall healthy diet will support the immune system and lower the amount of stress the body goes under during the wintery months. The immune system is largely located within the digestive tract, so increasing beneficial digestive bacteria is important for boosting immune function. Organic, whole-foods plant-based foods help establish healthy digestive bacterial growth, while sugar, refined grains, genetically modified foods, hormone-laced foods, and foods that contain pesticides and chemicals actually lower beneficial bacteria and weaken immune function.
Nutrients Your Body Needs to Ward Off the Flu
Prioritize getting enough of the following food groups to boost immune system function and ward off chances of developing the flu virus:
– A large variety of both cooked and raw organic vegetables
-Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus, tomatoes, cabbage, kale, spinach, and berries
– Superfoods such as camu camu and goji berries (rich in Vitamin C, more so than other foods); acai berry powder for antioxidants and omega 3’s, spirulina and chlorella for chlorophyll, iron, and Vitamin A; hemp and chia seeds for omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and cacao for rich amounts of iron, zinc, fiber, and protein.
– Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut water kefir and yogurt, miso and tempeh, real pickles from the refrigerated section (not those on the shelf), pure raw cacao, and apple cider or coconut vinegar
5 Specific Immune-Boosting Foods to Fill Your Plate With
This wholesome grain is incredible for boosting immune system function. Rich in antioxidants, beta-glucans (beneficial fibers), magnesium, potassium, plant-based protein, and B vitamins, oatmeal helps feed good gut bacteria and also lowers your cravings for unhealthy foods. The beneficial fibers also help sweep out toxic wastes from the body and will also keep you full to prevent unhealthy, low blood sugar levels. Oatmeal is also very warming during the chillier months, so it helps break up mucus and excess fluids that build up while also providing a comforting feeling. Enjoy it as a base for breakfast, or even lunch and dinner. You can also make soaked overnight oats with coconut yogurt to increase digestive function and improve immune function.
2. Cranberries[caption id="attachment_1481124278" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Andrew Yee/Flickr[/caption]
Cranberries are a simple, inexpensive superfood that are a powerful source of Vitamin C, with nearly 15-20 percent of your daily recommended amounts in just 1/4 cup. They’re also packed with potassium and anti-viral properties. Cranberries have been found to lower bad bacteria in the gut and improve good bacteria– exactly what you’re looking for! The best part is, they’re one of the best berries for those watching their sugar intake, with only 2 grams per 1/2 cup. Cranberries also benefit the brain, blood, and can be added to a variety of foods. Choose fresh or frozen over canned or dried that have added sugars and are more processed.
You may get tired of hearing about kale, but if you’re looking to stay well, it’s an important green to include in your diet throughout the year. Kale is rich in Vitamin A, C, and K, which benefit your brain, blood, heart, bones, and digestive health. Kale is also rich in fiber to feed good gut bacteria and provides an alkalizing effect on the body to prevent inflammation that can lead to illness. Use it in a smoothie, a wrap, or toss it in some warming winter soup such as Winter Potato, Kale, and White Bean Soup.
The veggie we’ve been told is good for us for years is still one of the most important to include in our diets. Rich in Vitamin C, with 20 percent of your daily needs per cup, 4 grams of protein per cup, and rich amounts of sulfur, Vitamin B6, and chlorophyll, broccoli is a powerful immune system booster. Broccoli’s compounds known as is such a powerful immune system booster that it’s been found to ward off disease such as cancer and diabetes. Here are 12 ways to enjoy broccoli if you’re looking for new ideas.
5. Ginger[caption id="attachment_148112" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Tony Hisgett/Flickr[/caption]
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory root that is also high in immune-boosting properties and also digestive problems. It is also an easy ingredient to add to tea, soup, smoothies, and even entrees from breakfast oatmeal to a dinner stir-fry. Or make a tonic to drink that boosts digestive and immune function. Here are 10 recipes to get you started.
When taking care of yourself this winter, these foods and nutrients will help provide you with an extra, yet simple and affordable weapon to take care of your body the natural way. As always, get enough rest, move your body with exercise and general and eat balanced meals throughout the day to take care of your body the way it wants to be!
What do you do to ward off the flu the natural way?
Lead Image Source: Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup