Updated: Jan 12
It's that time of the year, cold and flu season. Combined with the effects of cancer treatments and surgery, your immune system may need more support than ever.
When exposed to a pathogen, like a virus, the body may lose micronutrients (such as vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, zinc, and iron). This can impact your immune system and make it less efficient.
This post focuses on food sources, rather than supplements. Please discuss any supplements during cancer care, as they may interfere with medical treatments unless specifically recommended by your doctor or dietitian. Moreover, high dose supplements are not recommended for preventing cancer.
Citrus is a no-brainer, but other foods also help your immunity
How do we accomplish keeping our immune system humming? Adequate micronutrient intake from real, nourishing food sources is essential to both prevent and aid in quick recovery from infection.
Barring any nutritional deficiencies, for example, iron stores during cancer care may be low, the first barrier to viruses is washing our hands, of course. Masking may be necessary, as COVID-19 also persists. Vaccines such as the flu vaccine are vital. Don't forget about exercise, plenty of water, and good sleep, as all these strategies will better protect your body from pathogens.
Turns out there are also specific foods which help us during cold and flu season. Think of these foods as helpers, as food won't 100% prevent flu and colds. But, as you'll see, some vitamins and minerals can help shorten colds or its severity.
Foods to eat during cold and flu season
Here are the foods known to support optimal immune function during cold and flu season. Load up on these!
Berries like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are packed with antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body and support the immune system.
Citrus fruits like oranges, limes, grapefruits, and lemons, are LOADED with Vitamin C - one of nature's most powerful antioxidants. Also on the list - kiwis, bell peppers, and cauliflower, papaya, peaches, and grapefruit.
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, arugula, and Swiss chard are high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C as well as other essential vitamins and minerals that support immunity. Vitamin C can reduce cold duration by 8% if ingested before cold symptoms appear.
Citrus Fennel Salad
Recipe to Try: Citrus Fennel Salad
large orange, segmented
1 grapefruit, segmented
4 cup romaine, chopped
1 bulb fennel, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup pistachios, chopped
Dress the salad with:
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs grapefruit juice (1/4 of a grapefruit)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
Onions and Broccoli
Indoles, Allicin, and Quercetin such as onions, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, turnips, mushrooms, parsnips, and turnips
Protect cellular DNA (i.e., cancer growth)
Recipe to Try: Cauliflower Hummus with Vegetables
1 cup cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed
1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tbs tahini
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup water
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
Chop cauliflower into florets and steam.
Drain and rinse chickpeas.
Chop garlic and juice lemon.
In a large food processor, combine cauliflower and chickpeas. Pulse a few times to begin to pulse ingredients.
Add garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and ground cumin. Process until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add water a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with carrots and mini peppers or veggies of your choice
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Pumpkin and Apricots
The beta-carotene in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, cantaloupe and apricots strengthen the immune system.
Fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and anchovies are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
which have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body while supporting immune function.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds are high in zinc which has been found to be effective in reducing the duration of colds.
Types of food during cold and flu season
Focus on these 10 foods to help protect your immune system while reducing the effects of colds: Berries, citrus, leafy greens, onions, broccoli, pumpkin, apricots, fish, nuts and seeds.
For a nutritious approach to immune health, I can help. Here is my link to book a chat about making sure to meet your nutritional needs.