ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • Medicine & Health Science

Foods That Help Prevent The Flu, Colds and Other Illnesses

Updated on February 27, 2016

Human Immune System

The human immune system is a complex system with many working parts.
The human immune system is a complex system with many working parts. | Source

Certain Foods Prevent Illnesses and Help Overall Health

There are many of foods that help prevent the flu, colds and other common illnesses. These foods are also good for a person’s overall health and have long-term positive health benefits that help prevent more serious chronic illnesses. This is because they provide essential vitamins and minerals that both the immune system and the body need to operate at peak efficiency to prevent illnesses from developing. When these foods are eaten on regular basis, they boost the human immune system, allowing it perform in an optimal manner. If you want to give yourself the best chance of staying healthy during the cold and flu season, it is time start consuming foods that boost your immune system.

The idea behind eating foods that help prevent the flu, colds and other illnesses is to take a holistic and preventative approach to maintaining good health. Instead of reacting to illnesses by taking medications after you feel sick, be proactive and eat foods that provide vitamins and minerals that make your immune system strong and increase your chances of maintaining good health. Eating healthy foods is particularly helpful during the cold winter months, when colds, flues, and other illness are running rampant, but their benefits reach far beyond just one season.

Eat Unprocessed Foods To Prevent The Flu, Colds and Other Illnesses

Deficiencies in levels of vitamins and minerals that the human immune system uses to operate at peak efficiency can you to susceptible to getting sick. Eating immune system boosting foods in large enough portions will provide vitamins and minerals that the immune system needs to fend off illnesses.

Some people prefer to obtain vital vitamins and minerals via supplements, such as multi-vitamins or individual supplements. Taking supplements is better than doing nothing in most situations; however, the best way to obtain vital vitamins and minerals is by eating unprocessed foods that are high in vitamins and minerals. This is because the synthetic versions of vitamins and minerals contained in supplements are often less effective than vitamins and minerals that are obtained directly from healthy foods, due to the fact that synthetic vitamins and minerals are not always absorbed by the body as readily as natural ones.

It is important to keep in mind that whether you eat healthy foods that provide immune system boosting vitamins and minerals or you take supplements, being consistent is of paramount importance. Consistent consumption ensures that helpful vitamins and minerals will build up to levels in your bloodstream that are sufficient for your immune system to effectively utilize them to bolster its defenses and protect you from getting sick. When these immune system boosting vitamins and minerals are present in your bloodstream at sufficient levels, your immune system can readily produce germ-fighting cells, such as antibodies and white blood cells that quickly react to and neutralize invading germs that cause you to become ill. As an added boost to the human immune system, some healthy foods contain antimicrobial or antiviral agents that destroy unwanted germs in the blood stream.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Provide Important Nutrients

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables bolsters your immune system
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables bolsters your immune system | Source

A Look at Foods That Help Prevent The Flu, Colds and Other Illnesses

It is important to understand that what you eat throughout the day affects your immune system, as do a number of other factors in your life, such as your level of stress and how much sleep you get every night. Certain vitamins are also very important immune system boosters, specifically Vitamins A, C, D and E. Many of the following foods contain these important vitamins.

  • Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc. Many people do not eat enough servings of fruits and vegetables in a day. Nutritionists recommend at least five servings per day. Eat well-rounded servings of fruits and vegetables to ensure you enjoy the full benefit, including, but not limited to: citrus fruits, berries, apples, red grapes, broccoli, leafy greens, kale, onions, peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and carrots.
  • Drink orange juice and eat red bell peppers to increase vitamin C levels, which is a well-known vitamin that helps prevent and fight illnesses.
  • Eat yellow and orange vegetables that contain beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A assists the body’s immune system by increasing production of T-cells, which are important illness fighters. It is known to help fight respiratory infections. To obtain Vitamin A, consider these yellow and orange vegetables: butternut squash, carrots, yellow peppers, yellow potatoes, pumpkin, yellow summer or winter squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, or yellow tomatoes.
  • Yogurt is a good food to include in your regular diet to ensure that you obtain the probiotics that act as good microorganisms in your digestive tract. If yogurt is not your thing, consider adding probiotics to foods that you eat or drink probiotic containing Kefir, which is a drink derived from a mixture of milk and kefir grains. Medical research has found that having good microorganisms in your digestive tract improves the function of the body’s immune-system and bolsters its defenses against illnesses. To get your healthy gut bacteria, look for yogurt and kefir with "live and active cultures."
  • Eat two servings of salmon per week. Salmon is a good source of vitamin omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil). Omega 3 contains abundant anti-oxidants that help the immune system repair damaged cells and prevent illnesses. The reason for the limit of two servings per week is that some fish can contain high amounts of toxins from the environment, such as mercury and lead, which are harmful substances to humans in large quantities.
  • Eat Foods rich in zinc. A diet that includes foods that contain zinc will support the body's ability to make white blood cells, which are potent illness fighters in the immune system. If you become ill, zinc also may help reduce the length of the illness. To obtain zinc through diet, eat spinach, chickpeas, sesame seeds, lentils, beef, chicken, and lamb. Of course, red meats, such as beef should only be eaten in moderation, as they can cause health problems when consumed in large amounts.
  • Add garlic, onions, ginger, and lots of spices (oregano, turmeric) to your meals because they provide a wide spectrum antimicrobial agents to the blood stream that fight illnesses.
  • Eat almonds to obtain vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that the body uses to fight illnesses.
  • Use garlic when you cook meals. Garlic contains sulfur compounds that have strong antiviral properties that deactivate active viruses in the body, which helps prevent and treat illnesses.
  • Use the spice known as ginger to spice up meals. Ginger has antioxidant properties that are beneficial to the immune system. It is also an anti-inflammatory agent, which helps prevent and alleviate illnesses associated with inflammation.
  • Eat mushrooms to boost selenium levels in your bloodstream. Selenium helps white blood cells produce cytokines, which are a part of the immune system that clear up illnesses. Mushrooms also contain beta-glucan, an antimicrobial agent that helps the body prevent infections.
  • When it comes to treating yourself and having some desert, consider eating dark chocolate, just do not overdo it or you will cancel out the health benefits. Dark chocolate has higher concentrations of cocoa than milk chocolate. Cocoa helps the body produce T-cells, which help the body avoid getting sick. It also is an antioxidant, which helps remove harmful free radicals from the body.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, because proper hydration keeps the immune system running at peak capacity. A properly hydrated body provides the mechanism the blood stream needs to transport germ fighting cells throughout the body. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, since they act as dehydrates.
  • Eat proteins with each meal. Proteins provide the energy that your immune and detoxification systems need to run at maximum efficiency.

Steaming Vegetables Is The Best Way To Cook Them

To avoid losing nutrients while cooking, steam vegetables instead of boiling them
To avoid losing nutrients while cooking, steam vegetables instead of boiling them | Source

How To Cook Foods To Retain Nutrients

Eating a healthy diet goes beyond making good choices regarding what you eat. The way in which you prepare nutritious foods is very important to ensure that the foods retain their nutrients when you consume them. The most important thing to remember is to not overheat food in water. Beneficial nutrients and vitamins are broken down in food that is overheated in water. The best way to prepare fresh vegetables is to steam them, since steaming minimizes the amount of hot water contact and helps retain the nutrients and vitamins that your immune system needs.

Foods To Avoid Because They Suppress The Immune System

Avoid eating foods high in sugar and made of white flour, because sugar and processed white flour suppress your immune system for hours while your body processes them. Caffeine and alcohol can also act as an immune system depressants, since they cause the body to work on removing them from your system, which takes away resources from your immune system. It is a good idea to only use caffeine and alcohol in moderation to keep your immune system healthy. Fried foods that are high in saturated fat can also lessen the effectiveness of the immune system by promoting inflammation, and should be avoided.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamins Through Your Diet?

Maintaining adequate levels of vitamins is  important to avoid illnesses
Maintaining adequate levels of vitamins is important to avoid illnesses | Source

Vitamin D Is Very Important To Prevent The Flu, Colds and Other Illnesses

While there are many nutrients and vitamins that are helpful to the body’s immune system, a focus on foods that are high in Vitamin D is important during the cold dark winter months. The body does not produce any Vitamin D naturally during the winter, due to a lack of sunlight exposure. While being in close contact with others and spending a lot of time indoors spreads colds, flus, and other illnesses during the winter months, the marked increase in illnesses during the winter season cannot be only attributed to these factors. The missing factor appears to be the dramatic drop in Vitamin D that occurs in the human bloodstream during the months in which sun exposure is minimal and Vitamin D is not produced naturally.

A Word of Caution About Vitamins and Minerals Regarding Health Conditions

If you are pregnant or have a health condition, it is important to consult a licensed medical professional before making a substantial change in your diet that increases your intake of vitamins and minerals. In some circumstances, high levels of certain vitamins and minerals can be detrimental to your health. When in doubt, always consult a licensed medical professional that is qualified to provide medical advice regarding proper vitamin and mineral intake.

See What You Have Learned About Healthy Foods

view quiz statistics

Eating Healthy Foods To Avoid Illnesses Poll

Are You Now More Inclined To Eat Healthy Foods To Avoid Illnesses?

See results

Top Twelve Food That Prevent Cold And Flu

Don't Foreget To Wash Hands Regularly To Avoid Getting Sick

One the best ways to avoid flues, colds, and other illnesses is to prevent exposure to the germs that cause illnesses. Good hygiene, including frequent hand washing, is very important to prevent illnesses by limiting exposure to germs. This is especially true during the winter months, when such illnesses are more common.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great ideas for keeping healthy!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      yes vegetables and fruits are essential in our diet to keep away from flu

    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks kj force and TheBizWhiz! I am also a child of the 70s and 80s. It's good to awareness of healthy eating growing. There's a lot of bad things in processed foods.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 2 years ago from Florida

      You did an excellent job on your research regarding this subject. Maintaining the immune system is the way to protect the body from many health issues. I also liked the comment regarding chemical supplements vs natural, as they are absorbed faster and do not compromise the cells and organs.

      I spent many years of my practice in the art of Holistic Natural & Alternative methods...including Meditation, which relieves stress and strife...adding to body and mental welfare...kudos on your write...

    • profile image

      TheBizWhiz 2 years ago

      This is a great Hub. I am a child of the 70's and 80's so we grew up eating a lot of processed foods, but I am slowly changing my eating habits so I can be a better example for my children. I try to stay conscious about keeping my family active and eating whole foods, including the green ones. Voted up!