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Appetite for Knowledge

Fight Colds and Flu with Food

Seasonal flu and colds…everyone is trying to avoid these winter health challenges! You know the usual tips about the prevention of illness during cold and flu season: Get a flu shot; wash your hands often; cough/sneeze into your sleeve; and stay home if you are sick.

Your Diet’s Impact

Have you considered how your diet affects your health? Eating health-promoting foods that increase immune function can be an important factor in preventing flu and colds. To help keep the sniffles and sneezes away, consume nutrient-rich foods and beverages.

Keep Your Hands Clean!

This one is worth repeating: Wash your hands properly and frequently. Washing your hands well will help protect you from germs and viruses. Use soap and warm water – and wash for 15 to 20 seconds.

Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables

Produce is packed with the nutrients that your immune system needs to fight viruses and bacteria. Select and eat a variety of brightly colored fruits and veggies.

The best sources of vitamins C, A, and carotenoids include carrots, spinach, cabbage, kale, red bell peppers, oranges and melons. Many aspects of our immune function can be compromised when we are deficient in vitamin C. Food rich in vitamin A can be especially important for supporting the lining of our lungs and function of our lymph glands.

Vitamin E foods are important for maintenance of our white blood cell function. Our white cells are one of the major components of our immune system. Foods rich in vitamin E include tofu, green leafy vegetables (spinach and kale), broccoli, avocados, squash, sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts.

Choose Quality Protein

Protein sources such as lean meats, dairy, eggs and legumes are especially important because they supply the amino acids that your body needs to build the components of your immune system. Choose protein rich plant sources with heart healthy fat, such as peanut butter and nuts. Eating lean meats also helps you avoid zinc deficiency and iron deficiency, both of which can affect your immune system.

Increase Whole Grains

Whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, corn and oats provide you with plenty of antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C, E and selenium that are considered immune boosting nutrients.

Whole grains are also a major source of zinc that also plays a positive role in enhancing immunity.  Zinc increases the production of white blood cells in your body. Other foods rich in zinc include yogurt, lean red meat, poultry and fish, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and fortified cereals.

Add a Probiotic-Rich Food Daily

Probiotic foods help build up the good bacteria in our intestines. These bacteria play a role in helping fend off illnesses. Any fermented food is rich in this type of good bacteria, so choose yogurt, sauerkraut, tofu, brine-treated pickles and aged cheese at least daily.

Avoid excess milk products if you are stuffy. Milk protein thickens mucous and makes it harder to drain.

Eat Selenium Rich Foods

It helps prevent viral infections and it assists the immune system deal with infections that are already present in the body. Good dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, shellfish, fish, liver, pork, beef, lamb, poultry, sunflower seeds, whole grains, whole wheat bread, garlic, soybeans and mushrooms.

Filling Up on Omega-3 Fatty Acids Does a Body Good

Your body can’t produce omega-3 so you’ve got to be diligent about making sure your diet provides them. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to produce our immune system regulators called prostaglandins. Foods high in Omega-3 include cold water fish like salmon, vegetable oils, walnuts, flax and chia seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Water is always a refreshing choice! Antioxidant-rich green tea can be a nice way to warm up and stay hydrated anytime. A small glass of 100% juice is also good. Drinking 6 to 8 cups of fluids a day will help keep your mucous membranes moist and able to fight off germs. Getting plenty of liquids may help prevent viruses and bacteria from taking up residence in your body.

Choose Nutrient-Rich Snacks

Skip the chips, cookies, and colas. Sugar suppresses immune function. Feed your body well with a variety of tasty nutrient-rich items.

Consider a Multi-Vitamin/Mineral Supplement

This is the right time of year for a little extra nutrition insurance, a basic vitamin/mineral pill with 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most nutrients.

Boost Your Immune System

By following a healthy, varied and a well-balanced eating plan, you can easily achieve your recommended quantity of immunity-boosting nutrients. These smart lifestyle choices will help you to avoid the sniffles, stuffy nose and aches of the cold, as well as the misery of influenza.


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Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

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Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming | College of Agriculture and Natural Resources | Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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