Senior Home Care Blog - Western Cook & Eastern DuPage Counties

Stay Healthy With These Cold-Fighting Foods

By Mary L. Doepke, RN

After a brief but welcome taste of spring, the Chicago area is back in the throes of winter. And that means a return to cold and flu season.

The viruses that cause these winter illnesses thrive in cold, dry air, making it more likely that we will come into contact with a cold or flu-causing virus.

But there are steps we can take to keep those viruses from making us sick, including eating a diet full of cold-fighting foods.

Frequent hand washing is still the very best way to keep colds and flu at bay, but a fork and spoon also can be important tools in your efforts to stay healthy this winter.

Certain common foods hold powerful nutrients that can boost the body’s immune system and help to keep it healthy.  Here are a few cold-fighting foods that you might already have in your kitchen!

The Power of Fungus

These edible fungi supply the body with minerals and vitamins that keep the immune system working as it should. Prevention magazine reports that shiitake, maitake and reishi mushrooms pack the biggest boost, and adding an ounce or less to your daily diet can help to keep you healthy.

Try adding mushrooms to pasta sauce, eggs, soups and salads.

A Germ That’s Good For You

Wheat germ, which is full of B vitamins, zinc and vitamin E, is most nutrient rich part of the grain. Get a healthy dose of these immune-boosting nutrients by sprinkling wheat germ on cereal or yogurt, adding it to meatloaf or using it in breading for fish or chicken.

Yogurt – It’s Not Just for Breakfast

Yogurt has probiotics that not only can help to keep our guts working right, they also can support the body’s overall ability to fight off germs. Vitamin D also is important to proper immune function. Just make sure the yogurt you choose is fortified with this nutrient.

Along with eating it right from the container, yogurt can be added to smoothies, used as a substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise. It’s even a tasty substitute for milk with breakfast cereal.

Popeye Never Had a Cold

Helping you fight off illness is among the nearly countless benefits of eating spinach.

And it’s nearly as versatile as it is beneficial.

Along with salads, try using spinach in smoothies, as a pizza topping or in eggs. Mixed with cheese, it makes a tasty pasta filling. Try sautéing this leafy green veggie with garlic as a nutritious side dish.

Pour a Spot of Prevention

It’s a great way to warm up a cold winter’s day, and a great way to supply your body with immune-boosting antioxidants. While herbal teas have their own benefits, it’s in black and green tea that you will find these key ingredients.

Prevention magazine cites a Harvard study that showed those who drank 5 cups of black tea a day or 2 weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who drank other hot drinks. Those watching their caffeine intake can reap the same benefits from decaf tea.

Tea-drinking experts suggest bobbing the tea bag up and down as it brews to release the maximum dose of antioxidants.

Sink Your Fangs Into This Fact

The powers of garlic go far beyond warding off vampires. This common relative of the onion has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties that can help fight illnesses from the common cold to heart disease.

Roasted garlic makes a healthy, tasty spread for bread or crackers. It also offers a flavor boost to just about anything, including salad dressings, pasta sauces, meat dishes, and soups and stews. Sprinkle garlic powder or minced garlic over vegetables and other foods before roasting.