Ask the Chef: What are some good superfoods to take for cold & flu season?

by Julie Morris, Navitas Naturals Executive Chef
January 4, 2017

What are some good superfoods to take for cold & flu season?

Some might speculate that outside of a flu shot and heavy hand-washing, there’s not much that can be done to avoid a seasonal cold or flu once the illness is going around. In fact, just the opposite is true: by consciously upping your consumption of immunity-boosting foods during this season, you can help strengthen your body dramatically, akin to building a suit of armor internally. While no natural method is a 100% guarantee against illness, your odds of getting sick will be dramatically reduced … and if you do fall under the weather, you’ll be well prepared to make a more rapid recovery. Here are some excellent superfoods to consume this season to bolster immunity:

Goji Berries – Studies abound that connect goji berries with an enhanced immune system, specifically showing these berries effective against both the cold and the flu. In addition to goji berries’ high vitamin content, they are rich in flavonols, which can increase antibody response. While many people enjoy goji berries straight out of the bag, the dried berries are particularly soothing when steeped like a tea, simmered in soups, or warmed in oatmeal and hot cereals.

Mushrooms – Many mushrooms are considered “medicinal,” due to their high immunity-boosting powers. Fresh varieties like shiitake and maitake have been studied for their positive effects on gut health and inflammation, while some dried mushrooms like cordyceps and chaga are particularly immune-boosting for all kinds of viral and bacterial infections. Fresh mushrooms are delicious to cook with in all kinds of savory recipes, while the dried powders can be blended into warm drinks and broths.

Herbs – The potent taste that comes with herbs is actually a plant’s first signal that it is medicinal. Highly anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral, herbs like oregano, thyme, and parsley contain beneficial phytochemicals which can act like an cleaning agent for the inside of the body, ridding it of harmful microbes. While the most potent forms of these herbs will be in a distilled tincture (oil of oregano is particularly potent for cold-fighting), you can also choose to cook with these herbs for additional benefits too.

Camu – Camu berries are best known for their high vitamin C content – a vitamin that is widely used for its immune-enhancing powers. To effectively fight illness, high amounts of vitamin C are often recommend – a range of 500%-1000% RDA daily is often prescribed for general protection. Luckily, camu powder provides all the vitamin C you need in less than a single teaspoon, which is the equivalent nutrition of about 7-8 oranges! Camu has a bitter flavor on its own and should not be cooked with, but it can easily be added to smoothies and juices.

Seaweed – In addition to offering high levels of important minerals like calcium, regular consumption of seaweed can help keep the immune system strong, white blood cell counts high, and viruses at bay. An antioxidant compound known as fucoidan found in brown seaweeds is particularly helpful for fighting inflammation and protecting against cellular damage. Seaweed adds a deep savory flavor to soups and sauces, and can also be enjoyed in sandwiches and wraps.

Garlic – This ubiquitous kitchen staple is one of the finest cold-busting ingredients around. Helping to reduce inflammation and boasting strong anti-bacterial properties, some studies have shown garlic to be even stronger than antibiotics in certain cases. While many people take garlic capsules around flu season, you can also choose to simply cook with it more regularly, throwing an extra couple cloves into recipes, or roasting the whole head and enjoying it as a sweet spread on toast.


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