Foods for Fighting Colds and Flu

— Written By and last updated by

During this record breaking flu season, you cannot underestimate the importance of good nutrition when it comes to…your immune system. Food choices and the vitamins, mineral and antioxidants can play a vital role in keeping your body on the winning side of fighting off infections. These recommendations come from every food group and are your best defense against colds and flu.

Fish

Oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, compounds that help reduce harmful inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation prevents your immune system from working properly, and can contribute to colds and flu as well as more serious diseases.

Spicy Blackened Salmon

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets, skin-on (about 6 ounces each)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne (omit or decrease for a mild flavor)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Optional for serving: lemon wedges and fresh, chopped herbs such as thyme, oregano, or parsley

Directions

  1. In a shallow bowl, mix together cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  2. Pat seasoning mixture onto the flesh side of each piece of salmon. In a large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Place salmon, flesh-side down, in the hot oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, and then flip salmon with a spatula. Cook for about 5-6 more minutes, or until skin becomes crispy and fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 283, Fat 11 g., Cholesterol 114 mg., Sodium 437 mg., Protein 43 g.

Oysters

Zinc, has long been proven to shorten the length of cold symptoms, however Zinc supplements can often carry side effects such as headaches or nausea. The best bet is to get your zinc straight from your food source. Oysters contain more of the nutrient per serving than any other food.

Easy Oysters Rockefeller

Ingredients

  • 2 dozen oysters, shucked
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons celery, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons anise liqueur (optional)
  • cayenne, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • 2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions

  1. Shuck the oysters placing them in a baking pan filled with rock salt to keep them level and prevent the juices from spilling.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the garlic, sauté until fragrant, about a minute and mix half of the garlic butter into the breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the spinach, green onion and celery to the pan and cook until the spinach wilts.
  4. Add the anise liqueur, deglaze the pan and allow most of the liquid to evaporate and remove from heat before seasoning with cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Mix the parsley and Parmesan into the breadcrumbs.
  6. Place a heaping teaspoon of the mixture onto each oyster followed by some bacon and the breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake in a preheated 450° F oven until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 205, Fat 16g, Cholesterol 61mg, Sodium 301mg, Carbs 6g, Protein 7.2g.

Garlic

Garlic does much more than flavor food, the cloves contain allicin, a sulfuric compound that produces potent antioxidants when it decomposes.

Garlic packs the biggest antioxidant punch when eaten raw, but that may be a little strong for most folks, you can consider taking garlic supplements, or try adding it to your favorite foods.

Red Peppers

Red peppers are high in vitamin C, one red pepper has 150 milligrams of the nutrient—compared to a large orange which has only 100 milligrams. One hundred and fifty milligrams is twice the recommended daily allowance for women. If you are sick, however, you should be eating a lot of vitamin C throughout the day, 400 to 500 milligrams.

Garlic and Olive Oil Roasted Red Peppers

Ingredients

  • 8 red bell peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Ingredients

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Put peppers in a large baking pan and bake until soft when pressed, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool 10 to 20 minutes to loosen skin.
  2. Meanwhile, with a mortar and pestle, mash garlic with salt into a paste (or mash garlic with salt with the flat side of a chef’s knife, then put into a small bowl). Stir in olive oil to blend.
  3. Peel, stem, and seed peppers and cut lengthwise into ¾-inch-wide strips. Arrange peppers on a platter and drizzle with garlic oil, scraping it out of the mortar or bowl to get all the garlic. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8. Each serving contains Calories 81, Fat 7g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 246mg, Carbohydrates 5g, Protein .7g., Fiber 1 g.

Anise Seeds

These licorice-flavored seeds, which have antibacterial properties, have been shown to ease coughing and help clear congestion from the upper respiratory tract.

Anise seeds can be eaten (in rolls and cookies, for instance), but for cold-fighting the delivery method of choice is usually tea.

Anise Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup crushed Anise seeds
  • Flavor with sugar, garlic, cinnamon, or honey.

Directions

  • Combine together and sip this concoction up to three times a day.

Citrus Fruits

Studies show that taking vitamin C at the first sign of illness may reduce a cold’s duration by about a day. Load up on citrus, don’t worry about overdoing it, it’s very hard to overdose on vitamin C. Anything your body doesn’t use is just washed right out of your system.

Winter Citrus Salad

Ingredients

  • large grapefruit
  • 2 medium sized oranges (Cara Cara or Blood oranges)
  • 3 small citrus fruits like clementines or tangerines
  • ⅛ cup of almond slivers
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ⅛ teaspoon flake salt

Directions

  1. Peel all the fruits and remove as much of the pith as possible with a sharp paring knife.
  2. Using a serrated knife, slice the fruits (in a cross-section fashion) in cuts ½ inch thick.
  3. Arrange the slices on a plate – mix up the different colors for variety!
  4. Sprinkle with the almonds, drizzle the honey and lastly add the salt.

Serves 3. Each serving contains Calories 146, Fat 1g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 98mg, Carbohydrates 32g, Protein 3g.

Fennel

Like anise seeds, fennel is a natural expectorant, and can help clear chest congestion and soothe a persistent cough. Fennel can be eaten raw or roasted, but you may get the best cold-fighting benefit from drinking a tea made from fennel seeds. There are some commercially produced fennel teas available.

Roasted Fennel and Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise and divided
  • 1 bunch small carrots with tops, divided
  • 1 bunch scallions, halved crosswise and divided
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (tender leaves and stems, from 1 bunch)
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)
  • ¼ cup toasted unsalted pistachios, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Cut one of the fennel bulb halves into ½-inch thick wedges, and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Trim tops from carrots, and chop tops to equal 1 cup; set aside. Scrub carrots (do not peel), and add half of carrots to fennel wedges. Add half of scallions and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast at 425°F for 18 minutes or until carrots and fennel are completely tender and scallions begin to char, tossing occasionally. Remove from oven; cool to room temperature.
  3. Thinly slice remaining carrots, fennel, and scallions diagonally into 3-inch-long pieces; place in a large bowl.
  4. Add cooled roasted vegetables to raw vegetables in bowl. Add juice, cilantro, and carrot tops; toss. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and top with feta and pistachios. Serve immediately, or let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Serves 8. Each serving contains Calories 168, Fat 13g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 276mg, Carbohydrates 11g, Protein 4g., Fiber 39g.

Yogurt

Yogurt is loaded with microorganisms essential for good health. Eating probiotic foods, such as yogurt, is a good way to replenish beneficial strains of bacteria, which promote digestive health and help prevent stomach ailments.

Blueberries

These antioxidant powerhouses are bite-sized immunity boosters, especially when they grow in the wild.

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups frozen blueberries
  • ⅔ cup low-fat yogurt
  • 2½ Tbsp. maple syrup (add a tiny bit more if you want a sweeter frozen yogurt)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Optional Toppings:  shredded unsweetened coconut, chopped pistachios

Directions

  • Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. You can eat this straight away like a soft serve. If you want frozen yogurt you can scoop up like ice cream, chill the entire bowl in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Serves 4. 

Tea

A steaming hot cup of tea can help break up chest congestion and soothe a sore throat, but the benefits may run deeper. All tea—black, green, or white—contains a group of antioxidants known as catechins, which may have flu-fighting properties. Other research suggests catechins may help boost overall immunity, rev metabolism, and protect against cancer and heart disease.

Milk

Much of the vitamin D that our bodies need to build strong bones, defend against heart disease, and bolster our immune system is produced when the sun’s rays interact with our skin cells. But this vitamin D is also found in fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereal. Getting your daily dose of vitamin D may keep colds at bay.

Dark Chocolate

Ounce for ounce, pure cocoa contains more of the disease-fighting antioxidants known as polyphenols than most berries—and it’s loaded with zinc. Often, however, the nutritional benefits of cocoa are overshadowed by the sugar and saturated fat found in chocolate bars and other treats. To reap the immunity-boosting benefits without the unhealthy extras, stick with bite-sized portions—about one quarter-ounce per day—of dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher.

Barcelona Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

  • ⅔ cup boiling water
  • 2 ounces good-quality dark or bittersweet (60 to 70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1⅓ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 2-inch piece orange rind strip
  • ¼ cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
  • Cocoa powder (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine ⅔ cup boiling water and chopped chocolate in a medium saucepan, stirring until chocolate melts. Add milk and next 4 ingredients (through rind); cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk.
  2. Heat 5 minutes or until tiny bubbles form around edge of pan, stirring frequently (do not boil). Discard rind. Pour 1 cup mixture into each of 4 mugs. Spoon 1 tablespoon whipped topping over each serving. Dust with cocoa powder, if desired

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 177, Fat 5g, Cholesterol 3mg, Sodium 62mg, Carbohydrates 32g, Protein 4g. Fiber 2g.

Mushrooms

When it comes to mushrooms, your choices are many: White button, Portobello, shiitake, and Maitake are just a few of the varieties you’ll find in your grocery store. Fortunately, just about all mushrooms contain some form of immune-boosting antioxidants, along with potassium, B vitamins, and fiber.

Sautéed Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

  • ½ pound mixed mushrooms of your choice, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms.
  2. Cook the mushrooms until they are brown and fragrant, approximately 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add the garlic. Cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir. Mix in the fresh herbs and serve.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 43, Fat 3g, Cholesterol 5mg, Sodium 17mg, Carbohydrates 3g, Protein 2g. Fiber 1g.

Skinless Turkey Breast

Lean proteins, such as turkey breast with the skin removed, are high on the list of flu fighters. Protein builds antibodies and fights infection in the body. Chicken, turkey, and pork are all good sources of protein, but you can also get plenty from meatless sources such as beans, nuts, and dairy.

Marinated Turkey Breast

Ingredients

  • 6.5 oz. turkey breast
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1½ tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. dried basil
  • ¼ tsp. thyme
  • ¼ tsp. pepper

Directions

  1. Mix basil, thyme, garlic powder, and pepper with balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a bowl or large Ziploc.
  2. Cut the turkey breast into thumb-sized pieces or strips and place in the marinade for minimum an hour.
  3. Take the turkey out of the marinade and fry in a skillet for 5-8 minutes at medium heat (depending on the size of the turkey strips. Turkey HAS to be fully cooked).

Serves 1. Each serving contains Calories 348, Fat 5g, Cholesterol 110mg, Sodium 171mg, Carbohydrates 5g, Protein 41g. Fiber .7g.

Leafy Greens

The darker the greens, the higher the nutrient content, so to get your immunes in check choose arugula and kale over the iceberg every time Bitter greens like arugula may even help relieve chest congestion, sniffles, and coughs.

Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

Orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, are rich in beta-carotene. When we eat these foods, our bodies convert this organic compound into vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining a strong immune system.

Zesty Kale and Sweet Potatoes Bowl

(Adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound diced peeled sweet potatoes (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 large red bell pepper, quartered
  • ½ cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime rind, divided
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups hot cooked quinoa
  • 4 ounces baby kale, chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 ounce Feta cheese, crumbled (about ¼ cup)
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 4 lime wedges

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Combine sweet potatoes, 1½ teaspoons oil, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper in a bowl; toss. Arrange sweet potato mixture on one side of an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Place bell pepper on other side of pan; drizzle with 1½ teaspoons oil, and toss to coat. Bake until potatoes are tender and peppers are lightly charred, about 30 minutes, stirring potatoes once halfway through. Remove pan from oven. Cut bell pepper into strips.
  3. Cook almonds in a small skillet over medium until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon oil, remaining ½ teaspoon chili powder, ⅛ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon rind, and sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.
  4. Whisk together remaining 5 teaspoons oil, remaining ¾ teaspoon salt, remaining ¼ teaspoon black pepper, remaining 1 teaspoon rind, juice, and cilantro in a bowl. Divide quinoa among 4 bowls; top evenly with kale, sweet potatoes, and bell pepper. Drizzle with juice mixture; top evenly with coated almonds, Feta, and avocado. Serve with lime wedges.

Serves 4, each serving contains Calories 591, Fat 32g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 680mg, Carbohydrates 67g, Protein 16g., Fiber 15g.

Brazil Nuts

These nuts are rich, and creamy and high in protein, healthy fats, and selenium, a mineral that’s essential for proper immune function and may help guard against infections and flu. Just one nut contains more than a day’s recommended value, so eat these treats sparingly.

Brazil Nut Protein Balls

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups Brazil nuts
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup natural raisins
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup protein powder
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • ½ cup of Brazil nuts, chopped (to roll the balls in)

Directions

  1. Add 1½ cups of Brazil nuts to a food processor and process for about 20 – 30 seconds so there are still chunky pieces of the nuts. Then add the remaining ball ingredients and process until it is mixed well.
  2. Roll 1 tablespoon of the ball mixture up into a ball then roll in the chopped Brazil nuts, do all the mixture like this then store in an airtight container in the fridge for softer balls or the freezer for a harder consistency.

Serves 16. Each serving contains Calories 100, Fat 9g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 190mg, Carbohydrates 4g, Protein 3g. Fiber 2g.

Sunflower Seeds

These crunchy snacks are among the best natural sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cell walls from damage; a single one-ounce serving contains 30% of your recommended daily intake.

Roasted Spicy Sunflower Seeds

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Prepare baking sheet by lining it with foil.
  2. Assemble sunflower seeds into baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together oil, paprika, cumin and salt.
  4. Pour oil mixture into sunflower seeds in baking sheet and toss until evenly coated.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden. Let it cool first before serving.

Oats

Whether you eat them in a bowl or a bar, oats contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan, known for its cholesterol-lowering and immune-boosting properties. Studies have shown that beta-glucan from oats can help prevent upper respiratory tract infection, and a few controlled trials have suggested that beta-glucan consumption can alter white blood cell activity in humans, as well.

Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To Go

(Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)

Ingredients

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 2½ cups over-ripe mashed banana (For all substitutions, see nutrition link below)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 5 tbsp. pure maple syrup, agave, or honey OR stevia equivalent amount
  • ⅔ cup mini chocolate chips, optional
  • 2⅓ cups water – Increase to 2⅔ cups if using stevia
  • 1¼ cup + 1 tbsp. coconut or veg oil (45g) (Fat-free option listed in the nutrition link below)
  • 2½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Optional add-ins: cinnamon, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, ground flax or wheat germ, raisins or other dried fruit, etc.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 380° F, and line 24-25 cupcake tins. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir very well. In a separate bowl, combine and stir all wet ingredients (including banana).
  2. Mix wet into dry, then pour into the cupcake liners and bake 21 minutes.

I also like to then broil for 1-2 minutes, but it’s optional. If you let them cool overnight, they’ll no longer stick to the liners. These oatmeal cakes can be eaten right away, or they can be frozen and reheated for an instant breakfast on a busy day.

Serves 24. Each serving contains Calories 88, Fat 3g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 95mg, Carbohydrates 14g, Protein 2g., Fiber 2g.