Cozy sweaters, warm drinks and snow sports might be the first things that come to mind when you think of fall and winter, but it’s a harsh reality that these chilly months are also associated with the cold and flu.
In fact, even the most diligent hand-washers and surface sanitizers among us could easily find themselves home sick this winter. As it turns out, your likelihood of getting sick depends more on the state of your health than on how often you pull out the hand sanitizer.
"Believe it or not, most immune support is based upon the health of the individual,” said Registered Dietitian for HelloFresh Rebecca Lewis. “If you eat an adequate healthy diet full of nutrient-dense foods, stay hydrated and exercise regularly—your ability to fight the common cold increases greatly. When you are feeling run down, it is always a good idea up your intake of fruits and vegetables to replace any critical vitamins and minerals you may be missing in your diet. It’s also important to manage your stress and get enough sleep to keep up your mental energy.”
While each of those tips are important for maintaining a strong immune system, it’s crucial to know which foods will help keep you cold- and flu-free this winter. We asked registered dietitians and nutritionists to name their top immune-boosting foods—these are their 11 picks.
“Probiotics, or ‘live active cultures,’ found in yogurt are healthy bacteria that help the gut,” said Stephanie Green, a registered dietitian nutritionist, chef and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Optimum Nutrition, which will be released in January. “Choose a low-sugar or plain variety and look for a label that says, ‘Live and Active Cultures’.”
“These famous fungi have been used for centuries in various medicinal remedies. Mushrooms help to increase the production of white blood cells, which help fight off infection,” Green said. “Choose shiitake, maitake and reishi varieties for the biggest dose of immunity. Dice and add to pasta sauce, sprinkle over a salad, or sauté with olive oil and add to your morning omelet.”