Cold weather can suppress your immune system and make it easier for infection and disease to spread, according to research, which means that it might be smart to take extra steps.
Although vitamins and supplements can have a place in your diet, eating immunity-boosting foods can be just as effective, Dr. Davis Liu, chief clinical officer at Lemonaid Health told Grow. "Number one, if you eat an otherwise healthy diet, you actually don't need to buy vitamins," he says.
Here are the best immunity-boosting foods to keep stocked in your pantry and fridge this winter, according to health professionals.
Eating foods that are high in vitamin C can help your body fight disease, says Annie Maas, a registered nurse. This includes oranges, grapefruit, and pineapples. Eating them whole, as opposed to in a vitamin or juice form, is even more beneficial.
"Consuming whole foods over processed [foods] aids in reducing inflammation in the body, which has been a hallmark side effect of Covid," she says.
Like oranges and other citrus fruits, strawberries are high in vitamin C, says Joy Bauer, a nutrition and healthy lifestyle expert for the TODAY show and the host of NBC's Health + Happiness.
"Studies also show consuming foods rich in vitamin C can help shorten the duration of a cold," Bauer says. "All berries are awesome, but strawberries are real stars when it comes to bolstering our immune system."
Once you've loaded up on fruits, you'll want to get in a healthy serving of vegetables that are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, says Dr. Monisha Bhanote, a health and wellness expert.
"Generally, you will find an abundance of these nutrients in plant-based foods including dark leafy green vegetables," she says.
Kale and spinach are great choices when it comes to dark leafy greens, Bauer says: "They're standouts when it comes to enhancing immunity specifically because they're high in vitamin C and beta carotene, which has been shown to increase the number and strength of immune cells in the body."
Along with spinach and kale, you can add a number of other vegetables to your diet. Bell peppers, for example, are high in vitamin C.
"Mushrooms have antiviral properties thanks to compounds called beta-glucans and chitosan, which can give you more germ-fighting power," Bauer says. "Onions contains disease-fighting antioxidants, most specifically quercetin, a flavonoid that has been shown to boost immune function."
If you want to save money, shop seasonal vegetables, Bhanote says. That's more cost-effective than looking for out-of-season produce.
"In the winter months, we can nourish ourselves with root vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, and radishes, as well as the root vegetables more familiar to us, and spices like turmeric, garlic, and ginger," she says.
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