tray of fruits and vegetables

When you’re surrounded by nasty cases of the flu this season, your body’s immune system needs all the help it can get to ward off illness.

Adrian Cotton, MD, chief of medical operations at Loma Linda University Health, says in addition to making rest a priority, consistently washing your hands and arming your body with the flu shot, it’s helpful to consume foods that will boost your immunity.

“It’s important to be conscious of what you’re putting in your body, especially during this season of sickness,” Cotton says. “Reduce your intake of processed foods and focus on whole foods like fruits and vegetables. These will give your body a needed boost of vitamins and minerals.”

Cotton recommends these five foods to help ward of the flu virus this season:

  1. Garlic and onions — These powerful foods are not only packed with strong flavors and smells, they have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal benefits. Essentially, they have compounds such as alliin and other sulfur-containing molecules that help the body’s systems fight germs. They can reduce the length and severity of flu symptoms by increasing the activity of natural killer cells.
  2. Citrus fruits — Fruits such as grapefruit, oranges or kiwis are filled to the brim with flu-fighting vitamin C. This vitamin may help shorten symptoms, boosting both blood circulation and immunity. If sweet fruits aren’t appealing, there are many other foods that can provide a dose of the antioxidant, including red bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
  3. Mushrooms — As well as adding flavor to your salad, mushrooms have antiviral and immune boosting properties that can help your body ward off the flu virus. This is due to special structural sugars called beta-glucans which help to modulate the immune system. Other benefits include stress reduction and providing the body with anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. Optimize these benefits by having a variety of mushrooms in your diet — including maitake, white button and shiitake.
  4. Ginger — This special little root contains the chemical sesquiterpenes, which specifically targets viruses found in the common cold and flu. Ginger has other benefits, including helping to suppress coughing and containing anti-inflammatory gingerols that can fight infection. It is also useful to calm the stomach and reduce nausea. It can be used in many things such as stir-fries, beverages, baked goods and marinades.
  5. Selenium-rich foods — Brazil nuts contain your recommended daily value for the mineral selenium, which helps boost your immunity. The mineral increases your body’s production of cytokines which help fight the flu virus. Selenium can also be found in brown rice, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, lentils, spinach, cashews, bananas, milk and yogurt.

Cotton also suggests supplementing immune fighting foods with adequate hydration. “Remember to drink lots of water,” he says. “It will repel contaminants and flush out harmful toxins from your immune system.”

Cotton encourages good nutrition along with other flu-fighting habits this flu season to give your body its best chance at staying well.

To learn more about flu prevention and to schedule your flu shot, contact Loma Linda University Health Primary Care at 909-558-6600. Don’t have time to call? Make your appointment quickly and easily online at MyChart.