Eating to Prevent Illness

At the end of last year, I encouraged you to eat more vegetables. Now is the time to cook with winter squash and add greens, canned tomatoes, lots of garlic into soups and stews, especially since they can help you fend off all those nasty bugs going around! With cold and flu season at its peak, it’s more important than ever to be diligent when it comes to your health.

In addition to practicing good hand washing, and getting enough sleep, exercise and fresh air (Did you know many times we get sick simply because we’re cooped up inside sharing germs?), eating immunity-boosting foods really CAN give you a leg-up in the illness-prevention game.

Vitamin C

It’s no surprise to see Vitamin C on this list, but would you be surprised to know oranges aren’t your best source? Sure, they contain lots of it, but red bell peppers have even more! Tomatoes are also a good source of Vitamin C, including the canned variety, which are a better choice this time of year. Studies show increased intakes of Vitamin C can shorten the length of your cold and make it less severe. With citrus in season this time of year, load up on oranges and grapefruit at the grocery store!


Healthy gut bacteria help boost our immune system and keep everything running smoothly in our bodies. Keep those good bugs happy with probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt. When shopping, make sure the container states that it includes ‘live and active cultures.’ Other sources of probiotics include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, pickles and tempeh.


Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants makes you less likely to catch a cold in the first place. Antioxidants are found in many plant foods, such as blueberries, spinach and broccoli. The more colorful the fruit or veggie, the better! Other good sources include green tea and dark chocolate.


Just like Vitamin C, zinc can also help lessen the duration and severity of you cold, if taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Regular intakes of zinc can also help prevent you from catching a cold as well. Meat, shellfish and legumes (beans) are all good sources of zinc. Salmon is particularly good, as it also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost immunity as well.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Ginger, olive oil and garlic are all known to be anti-inflammatory and boost our immune systems. Unfortunately, garlic supplements aren’t as effective, as the immune-booster in garlic, allicin, is activated when cloves are chewed or crushed raw. Try a stir-fry with lots of Vitamin C-packed veggies and beef (for added zinc) and a sauce that contains ginger, olive oil, garlic and orange juice for a real immune-boosting meal!


Last but not least, drinking enough water can also help during cold and flu season. First, we tend to lose more fluid during cold months when we breathe through our mouths more frequently. Second, drinking water helps to flush out the extra mucus we experience this time of the year, too. Third, because we aren’t hot and sweaty like we are in the summer, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. Staying well hydrated is always a good idea, so be sure to get those eight cups a day!


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