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How to stay healthy during the cold and flu season

by tamarajune
Published: Last Updated on

Cold and flu season comes around every year, and some people always seem to catch it. While there are many factors at play that make some more susceptible than others, it’s crucial that you remember you are not powerless.

Whether you are someone who quickly gets sick or someone who generally stays healthy, there are a few things you can do to help keep your immune system strong during the winter months. 

Thus, in this post, we’ll talk about foods and habits that help you stay healthy during the cold and flu season. While incorporating more of these foods and practices into your life can’t provide a guarantee, they will improve the odds. And if you ask me that is worth a lot.

How diet affects your immune system

Since the latest pandemic, you know the importance of washing your hands regularly and avoiding contact with sick individuals to protect yourself and others from disease.

Additionally, eating nutrient-rich foods helps make sure your body has a good defense in case you get in contact with bacteria or a virus. A strong immune system may be able to fight off intruders before you even notice they are there. And if you do experience symptoms, they are usually milder and don’t last as long. 

The most important dietary factors to help you stay healthy during the cold and flu season appear to be: 

  • A high consumption of:
    • vitamins (particularly beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E)
    • minerals (especially zinc) 
    • antioxidants 
  • Following a low-fat diet
  • Limited use of oil ( may impair with white blood cell function)
  • a healthy weight 

[su_highlight]Summary: A healthy diet helps keep your immune system strong against intruders. Particularly beneficial appears to be a high consumption of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as a low-fat diet, limited use of oil, and a healthy weight.[/su_highlight]

Now let’s take a look at the 10 foods that have shown to be particularly valuable in helping you stay healthy during the cold and flu season. 


Ground turmeric on a wooden spoon

Turmeric (Curcumin) offers a variety of health benefits. It boosts the activity of immune cells, supports antibody response, and acts anti-inflammatory. To promote absorption and allow turmeric to unfold all its benefits, combine it with black pepper. 

How to add turmeric to your diet: I love to start my day by drinking hot lemon water with 1 tsp turmeric, a dash of cayenne pepper and some ground pepper. If that is not your thing, you can use turmeric as a spice in almost all meals. 

2. Garlic

Cloves of garlic on a wooden surface

Garlic is another not-so-secret weapon that helps the body fight infections. In addition to its health-promoting components, garlic also enhances the function of immune cells. For the most benefits, eat garlic raw.

How to add garlic your diet: Garlic is delicious in a salad, or you can easily incorporate it into your main dishes. 

3. Cayenne pepper

Ground cayenne pepper in a small wooden bowl

Cayenne pepper, in addition, to being an antioxidant, can help relieve nasal congestion and reduce coughing.

How to add cayenne pepper to your diet: Use cayenne pepper as a spice in any meal you are preparing, spice-up your tea with it, or make some hot lemon water. 

4. Pure pomegranate juice

A pomegranate on a wooden surface

Pure pomegranate juice is known for its ability to decrease the length of colds by up to 40%. It also helps fight off infections because it is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Further, it is rich in antioxidants.

How to add pure pomegranate juice to your diet: Pour some of it into your tea or use it to flavor your water. 

5. Ginger

Ginger on a white surfaces as an example of what to eat to stay healthy during cold and flu season

Ginger is a popular remedy for the cold and flu. Many use it to make tea when they feel under the weather. Ginger is antimicrobial and acts anti-inflammatory. Use fresh ginger for the most benefits.

How to add ginger to your diet: Make ginger tea or prepare a ginger shot. You can also add it to your smoothie or any Asian-inspired meal, f.e. Stir-fry.

6. Dried Tart Cherries

Tart cherries in a small brown bowl as an example of what to eat to stay healthy during cold and flu season

Dried tart cherries help you stay healthy in a variety of ways. Among others, they are rich in antioxidants, promote sleep and reduce symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection

How to add dried tart cherries to your diet: Eat them as a snack or put them in oatmeal, smoothies, muffins, and cakes. 

7. Broccoli

Fresh broccoli in a white bowl as an example of what to eat to stay healthy during cold and flu season

Broccoli is full of health-promoting nutrients and plays a vital role in boosting the immune system. It is also rich in antioxidants as well as vitamins A and C. 

How to add broccoli to your diet:  Broccoli makes for a tasty side, but can also be incorporated to your main dish. You can read more about the benefits of broccoli, how to add it to your diet and make it taste good here.

8. Walnuts

Walnuts on white wooden surface as an example of what to eat to stay healthy during cold and flu season

Walnuts are also a great choice because they are anti-inflammatory as well as a great source of vitamin E, vitamin B6, copper, and folate. 

How to add walnuts to your diet: Walnuts make a great snack, especially in combination with fruit. You can also add them to oatmeal, smoothies, or salads.

9. Lemons

Big plate full of lemons

Lemons are rich in vitamin C and have a variety of immune system boosting properties. They are also an antioxidant and promote DNA repair. 

How to add lemons to your diet: Hot lemon water is excellent when you feel sick, but you can also add it to regular water to make it more flavorful. Further, use lemon juice as a salad dressing (f.e. with tahini) or incorporate it into your main dish (I love putting it on rice or spinach, so good!). 

10. Tea

Chamomile tea in a glass cup

Chamomile and green tea have the most beneficial impact on the immune system. Chamomile tea acts antibacterial and sleep-promoting. (Getting enough sleep keeps your immune system healthy and allows you to fight off infections much quicker and more efficiently.)

Green tea is rich in antioxidants, which also promotes a robust immune system.

How to add tea to your diet: Drink green tea in the morning instead of coffee. Tip: adding a bit of lemon juice will make it even tastier. Drink chamomile tea before bedtime or throughout the day if you are not feeling well and want to catch some rest.

Additionally, incorporating fermented foods, green vegetables as well as high-fiber foods into your diet frequently also helps you stay healthy during the winter months. 

[su_highlight]Summary: 10 foods that help boost your immune system are tea (especially chamomile and green tea), turmeric, cayenne pepper, lemon, ginger, dried tart cherries, walnuts, garlic, broccoli, and pure pomegranate juice. Further, eating a diet rich in fiber, fermented foods, and green vegetables is beneficial too.[/su_highlight]  

Healthy habits that help you stay healthy during the cold and flu season

In addition to a healthy diet, you can implement the following practices to strengthen your immune system further: 

  • Take a vitamin D supplement because a deficiency may weaken the immune system 
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water/tea (2-3 liters 64 – 96 oz) every day
  • Reduce your intake of refined sugar and processed foods.
  • Try to limit your consumption of caffeine and avoid alcohol (as it can damage parts of your immune system and thus, make you more prone to infections)
  • WASH YOUR HANDS regularly and correctly
  • Stay active. You can make it simple and go for a walk or do an at-home workout. Of course, you can do more vigorous exercises if you want. However, avoid exercise if you are already sick or not feeling well.
  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Adequate sleep strengthens your immune systems and allows the body to fight infections more effectively.  
  • Avoid touching your face. 
  • Keep a safe distance (1-2 meters) to people who are sick, if possible. 
  • De-stress. You can meditate, exercise, take a bubble bath, or whatever self-care you enjoy. 

[su_highlight]Summary: In addition to a healthy diet, habits such as washing your hands, staying active, getting enough sleep, de-stressing, taking a vitamin D supplement, and avoiding/limiting caffeine and alcohol, help keep your immune system strong.[/su_highlight]

Summary: How to stay healthy during the cold and flu season

Images of the  foods that boost the immune system and help you stay healthy during the cold and flu season

What are you doing to stay healthy during the cold and flu season?

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