Nutritionists agree: You are what you eat! To avoid a winter illness and gain an extra flu-fighting punch, try adding these five items to your meal plan:
- Chicken soup: Sure, it’s good for the soul (and makes us feel better when we get sick), but chicken soup actually helps prevent illness. As it’s cooked, chicken releases an amino acid called cysteine, which packs immune power. Collagen in the bone broth also boosts immunity, plus reduces inflammation. Finally, chicken soup helps prevent inflammatory white blood cells from spreading throughout the body. Bonus: the broth helps keep you hydrated.
- Yogurt: The probiotics, commonly known as “good bacteria,” found in many yogurts can help clear intestinal tracts of germs that cause disease. Research suggests a balanced gut not only prevents sickness, it can improve digestion and sleep. Just steer clear of sugary yogurts. And if you avoid dairy, try fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut for a probiotic punch.
- Garlic: People who eat garlic may have a lower chance of contracting colds, according to one study. Garlic contains allicin, a powerful sulfur-packed compound. Since most of us won’t likely munch on raw garlic cloves, try incorporating fresh garlic into salad dressings, soups, sautéed vegetables, stir-fries, and pastas, or roast a whole head of garlic for your family!
- Green tea: Both green and black tea contain antioxidants called flavonoids, but green tea typically has more of the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) since it’s steamed and not fermented. Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which may help fight germs in T-cells.
- Fatty fish: Oily fish like salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation. Chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on the immune system, so be sure to load up on healthy fish.
It’s also important to consume lots of liquids, especially during cold months and when sick. Hot tea may help relieve sore throat symptoms. Just avoid drinks with added sugars, since sugar causes inflammation and can compromise immunity.
Remember that health care is not just for when you’re sick or injured—prevention really is the best medicine. All CalPERS Basic plans offer members free preventive care office visits, including screening tests, well-baby visits, immunizations, and more. Take advantage of these visits to ask your doctor more about the foods and activities that can help keep you well.