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  • Denise Scott

Eating for Cold and Flu Season

Cold and flu season is upon us, and keeping healthy goes beyond good handwashing, avoiding crowds, and covering your cough. Nutrition plays a vital role. Keeping your gut healthy contributes to a healthy immune system, as outlined in “What’s the Gut Got to do with Immunity” blog 10/4/23;

In addition to a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep and exercise are all beneficial.

Immune-boosting foods do exist and are not only for the winter season but year-round. There is a scientific basis for eating chicken soup, drinking tea with honey, and taking extra vitamin C when ill. Variety and balance are the goals.

Soothing foods for illness - chicken noodle soup and hot tea.

Diets limited in fresh fruits and vegetables limit vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Diets high in sugar, fat, and ultra-processed foods lack nutrients, are bad for the gut microbiome, and promote inflammation.

The following nutrients are known to be immune-boosting, so I will focus on these:

Vitamins A, C, and D




These are found in plant and animal foods.

I advocate getting these from whole, natural foods since the foods containing these contain a host of additional nutrients, including fiber. Aim for at least 5-8 fruit and vegetable servings daily.

Variety of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins A & C such as citrus fruit, peppers, and spinach.

Increase your and your child’s antioxidant intake with vitamins A and C. You will find these in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, berries, mangoes, melons, carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash, as well as in bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and spinach.

Vitamin D is thought to primarily come from dairy (milk, cheese, and yogurt) but is also from salmon and fatty fish, soy, eggs, beef liver, mushrooms, and many vitamin D-fortified items like plant milk, cereals, and orange juice.

The mineral zinc comes from animal sources like poultry, red meat, dairy, and fish, and plant sources such as beans and legumes, nuts, and whole-grain cereals.

Probiotic foods come from yogurt with live cultures and fermented foods such as kefir, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and fermented vegetables.

Many fermented foods provide probiotics such as kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, and yogurt pictured here.

Get prebiotics from fiber in vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruit.

Bring on the spices and herbs!

Garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, chili pepper, cloves, coriander, cumin, paprika, basil, rosemary, sage, spearmint, and thyme contain phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Spices and herbs in wooden spoons pictured here add flavor and are immune-boosting.

Finally, drink up!

Staying hydrated is critical. In addition to water, tea (white, green, and black varieties) is loaded with polyphenols and flavonoids and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Back to that chicken soup!

The veggies in the soup - carrots, onion, and celery are full of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and prebiotics.

The chicken offers protein and zinc.

The broth provides fluid and electrolytes.

All this in a single bowl.

And, as always - don’t forget to wash your hands!

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