Here’s a sobering fact: The flu season of late 2017 to early 2018 was a brutal one. Surpassing the swine flu in intensity, many were stuck in bed waiting out the symptoms. With the sunny season waning and autumn officially underway, it’s once again time to prep for this seasonal sickness. While that may be a scary thought, keeping your immunity up can keep you from getting sick.
“In terms of immunity, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet, drink enough fluids, get enough sleep, and stay active,” says Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, and creator of Whole Green Wellness. “When it comes to eating, be sure to eat a variety of nutrient-dense plant foods including: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. These foods offer fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that keep your body working at its peak function.”
Along with eating a nutritious diet, you also want to keep up your health with an exercise routine. Aaptiv’s workouts are easy to use and are catered to match your schedule.
Here are the vitamins that will help you fight off the flu and the foods you can find them in.
Find it in: strawberries, broccoli, oranges, pineapple, and bell peppers.
“Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants available. [It] works to fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to the cells,” says Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, and founder of DrAxe.com and Ancient Nutrition. “It also plays a central role in immunity, with studies showing that infections and stress can quickly deplete vitamin C concentrations in the immune cells,” he continues. “Although there’s limited research to show any benefit of vitamin C when it comes to preventing the cold or flu, studies do show that getting enough can reduce symptom severity and shorten the duration of respiratory infections.” In short, while vitamin C might not entirely prevent you from getting sick, there is proof that it can aid in recovery.
“What’s more, a deficiency in this key vitamin can also impair immune function and increase the risk of infection,” Dr. Axe adds. This vitamin can’t entirely prevent you from getting the flu. But, not getting enough of it in the first place puts you at a higher risk. “To get in your fix, include a wide variety of fruits and veggies in your diet,” Axe advises. We recommend strawberries, broccoli, oranges, pineapple, and bell peppers. But, eating enough fruits and vegetables overall should cover your needs. Wolfram agrees, “If you’re eating fruits and vegetables daily, you should be getting all the vitamin C you need.”
Find it in: Salmon, sardines, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods.
Like vitamin C, vitamin D has been proven to reduce the duration of the flu and other chronic viral infections, says Dr. Charles Passler, creator of Pure Change and nutritionist to the likes of Bella Hadid, Sara Sampaio, and more. “It is especially helpful for people who have low vitamin D levels in the first place,” he explains, touching on the estimated 85 percent of people in the US who have a deficiency.
Axe agrees, telling us, “Vitamin D is absolutely essential to many aspects of health. [These] range from maintaining bone mineral density to enhancing mineral absorption. Unfortunately, it’s found naturally in very few food sources and is mostly obtained through sun exposure, which is why supplementation is important for people at risk of deficiency.” You can, however, find the sunshine vitamin in foods such as salmon, sardines, and egg yolks, as well as mushrooms and fortified foods like almond milk, soy milk, orange juice, and yogurt.
Although it may be difficult to find, the vitamin can work wonders for your immune system. “Impressively enough, emerging research shows that vitamin D has disease-fighting properties and can help bump up immunity to fight off infections,” Axe confirms, citing a study that states it has reduced the incidence of influenza in children.
Find it in: Chickpeas, liver, tuna, salmon, chicken, and potatoes.
“Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. [It] is used for over 100 enzymatic reactions, including the metabolism of proteins in the body,” Axe says. To rephrase, this vitamin plays a major role in our bodies. It’s involved in brain development, nervous system functioning, and possibly slowing cognitive decline, just to name a few functions. “It also works closely with the immune system to ward off infections like the flu,” Axe continues. “In fact, one of the hallmark signs of vitamin B6 deficiency is a weakened immune system and a decrease in the production of serum antibodies. [This] makes you more susceptible to the flu and other respiratory infections.” To keep your vitamin B6 levels in check, Dr. Axe recommends consuming chickpeas, potatoes, liver, tuna, salmon, or chicken.
Find it in: Spinach, pumpkin seeds, avocado, legumes, leafy greens, and dark chocolate.
Magnesium surpasses vitamin B6, involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions. Clearly, this is a vitamin you want to keep an eye on—especially during this time of year. Not only does it assist in bone formation, heart health, decreasing inflammation, and relieving stress, but also keeping the flu at bay. “Unsurprisingly, it’s critical when it comes to immunity, with research showing that it plays a key role in regulating the immune response,” Axe tells us. To increase your body’s magnesium levels, he recommends eating a wide array of magnesium-rich foods. These include bone broth, magnesium-rich veggies, spinach, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds to fight off infections.
Find it in: Legumes, seeds, yogurt, red meat, and seafood.
Rounding out our flu-fighting vitamins is zinc. Like vitamins C and D, it has the ability to stomp out sickness faster than your system would otherwise. “Commonly found in many over-the-counter cold and flu medications, zinc is an essential mineral. [It] has a powerful impact on immune function,” Dr. Axe explains. “In fact, studies even show that taking zinc can reduce the duration of symptoms of infections like the common cold to keep you feeling healthy all year long.”
On a larger scale, consuming enough zinc can help other cells in your body that fight off sickness and disease. “Zinc plays an important role in improving communication between cells in the immune system. It also improves your immune response by boosting the activity of macrophage and natural killer cells,” adds Dr. Passler. In short, natural killer cells (or NK cells) bind to virus-infected cells and tumor cells to kill them off. Consuming zinc gives these cells a boost, helping them to fight off the flu, as well as other serious illnesses. To ensure that you’re getting enough zinc in your diet, eat red meat, seafood (especially shellfish), legumes, seeds, and yogurt.
Don’t go the flu season alone.
Eat these foods to boost your immunity, but don’t forget about the crucial role of exercise. Build healthy habits with the help of the number one audio-based fitness app, Aaptiv.