Health & Wellness

Five foods to try this cold and flu season.

December 1, 2017

Brace yourselves the cold and flu season is here. While many of us are rolling up our sleeves for the yearly flu shot, Jennifer Baer, a Toronto naturopath and nutritionist believes that eating these five foods can strengthen the immune system and keep you flu-free. 

1. Garlic:

Garlic has antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties which makes this spice an important ally against the cold and flu. “As long as it agrees with you, chop up 1-2 cloves of raw garlic and mix with a teaspoon of honey,” Baer says. “The garlic must be fresh, not cooked, to maintain its antimicrobial effect. 

Consuming raw garlic releases the raw enzyme allicin which some experts believe is responsible for garlic’s health benefits.

2. Onions: 

Onions are very important this time of year Baer explains. The superfood contains phytochemicals -disease preventive properties- and vital vitamins like A, B6, C and E. “Onions should also be consumed raw, for optimal benefits, she says.”

Onions have a significant amount of antioxidants and are rich in minerals like sodium, potassium, iron and dietary fibre making it a powerful superfood for the winter season.

3. Ginger: 

“This popular spice contains chemicals called sesquiterpenes that specifically target cold and flu viruses,” Baer explains. She recommends cutting up raw ginger and drinking it in hot water as a tea. “This spice can soothe a sore throat and serve as a sedative which can help with sleep.”

Health experts say that ginger contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that help boost the immune system.

4. Fruits and Vegetables:

Fruits and veggies with bright colours like dark greens, purples, oranges and reds have the most nutritional value and should be consumed this time of year. “Kale and blueberries, for example, are full of phytonutrients, which fight off infections and keep you from getting sick.”

Bright fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and immune boosting properties that keep you from getting sick, experts say.

5.  Naturally Fermented Foods:

Baer explains that when a food is fermented it means that it’s left to sit and steep until the sugars and carbs become bacteria-boosting agents. Some examples of fermented foods include unpasteurized miso made from fermented soybeans, yogurt, kefir, and drinks like kombucha -which is fermented tea with yeast and bacteria. These foods are rich in probiotics, healthy bacteria that help the digestive tract and maintain a strong immune system.

For those who regularly consume Kombucha, Baer advises against sweetened versions, “sugar actually depresses the immune system.”

The good bacteria found in fermented foods is said to boost the immune system by promoting healthy digestion.

“Garlic, onions and ginger won’t cost you much and you can go to your local market to buy some great fruits and vegetables,” Baer says. She adds that naturally fermented foods cost a little more but “it’s all about budgeting.”

Davina Lal is a recent grad from York University. She says she will include Baer’s list of superfoods as part of her cold-and-flu fighting plan. “I am notorious for getting sick even with the flu shot… I don’t think I’m eating the right foods,” she says,“ I will definitely include these food items in my diet.”

Ara Wiseman is a Toronto nutrition expert and author who specializes in disease prevention. She says that investing in immune-boosting food doesn’t have to be time-consuming.  

Try making a soup:

Wiseman believes that students and young professionals, in particular, are prone to getting sick because of poor eating habits, stress and lack of sleep.

She says that making a healthy, inexpensive soup of onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric and a medley of bright vegetables is a quick and easy way for the body to absorb all of the important vitamins and nutrients.

“But chop fresh garlic every time you pour yourself a bowl,” she says.

Ara Wiseman says that a hearty soup can help you get all of the cold-and-flu fighting nutrients you need.

Turmeric has been tooted for centuries for its health benefits. Wiseman says that this spice has anti-inflammatory properties and is an antioxidant which helps strengthen the body to ward off viruses. 

“Add a little black pepper to increase the bioavailability of the active compound turmeric, curcumin,” Wiseman advises. 

Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric, and adding black pepper can improve the absorption of curcumin.  

What does the family doctor say?

When it comes to cold and flu remedies, Dr. Alvin Chen, a Scarborough family doctor says there is no evidence that these foods can prevent or fight off the cold and flu virus.

“Consuming foods, like the ones you mentioned, may lessen the symptoms associated with colds and flus but they can’t prevent or fight off the virus.”

Chen explains that the flu vaccine lowers one’s likelihood of getting sick by building the body’s immunity. “The vaccine is preventative.”

The presence of the virus from the vaccine tells the immune system to produce antibodies to fight off the particular strain of flu.

The Scarborough doctor believes that you can’t catch the flu from the flu shot. “That is a myth and this claim should not deter people from getting vaccinated…those who have gotten sick right after getting the shot were likely already infected,” he says.

Although Chen believes that the flu shot is the most useful way to fight the flu, he also believes that a healthy diet rich in vitamins in minerals is important for one’s overall health.  

The family doctor lists some easy ways to avoid spreading cold and flu-causing germs;

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Stay home from school or work when sick
  • Cover mouths when coughing and sneezing
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and shared items
  • Avoid touching your face – wash hands first.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.

The naturopathic expert, Jennifer Baer, disagrees with Dr. Chen’s claim about food being unable to prevent illnesses like colds and flus. Baer believes that eating foods like the ones mentioned in the list can strengthen the immune system, prevent or reduce the duration, or the severity of illness. 

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S,  the 2016-2017  Flu Vaccine Effectiveness score was 42, which means it worked 42% of the time. 

“It is very hard to get accurate data on rates of influenza in vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals however, the point is that getting vaccinated does not preclude one from getting the flu.” Baer says. 

The CDC  in the U.S measures vaccine effectiveness in flu vaccines. Its effectiveness score is determined by how well the vaccine prevents doctor’s visits or hospitalization in those with lab-confirmed cases of influenza. 

Baer says whether someone chooses to get vaccinated or not, it’s important to take other preventative health measures like eating foods mentioned on her list. 

“Avoid refined, processed foods, sugary drinks or sweets and fast foods…focus on a more natural, whole food diet,” she says. “In doing so, you can reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune system and support your microbiome, the healthy bugs in your gut. 

We can all agree that no one likes being sick so speak to a healthcare practitioner, you feel comfortable with, to discuss ways to stay flu-free this season. 

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28 Comments

  • Reply Bee November 23, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Great post! All of these food are really fantastic to incorporate into your regular diet – not to mention extremely affordable with huge health payoffs 🙂

    • Reply angelahoyos November 23, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks for the love Bee! I think so too!

  • Reply Fronie December 5, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Love this. I have a soup recipe that I make with these ingredients and put chicken in too. I also use turmeric a lot. Good definition of fermented I never really looked up the meaning, but it makes alot of sense now when I hear that they are good for the gut.

  • Reply Patricia Eales December 5, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Great post, and all of the ones that I recommend to my clients as well!

  • Reply fashion December 5, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you for this natural health post! A hearty soup always cures my aches and pains. Great recommendation for all. Thank you rro the share!

  • Reply Estefania December 5, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    This is a big passion of mine, living a healthy life and we share the social media management in common. This post is accurate down to a tee… ginger being my favourite!!

  • Reply Kasia Olszewski December 5, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    All of these foods can fit very well into my average diet. Winter is soup season for me, so I’ll definitely have to make some with these ingredients!

  • Reply Meg December 5, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Excellent Advice! Thank you for this. My husband is sick and now my little 2 yr old has a running nose. So theres definitely a cold virus of some kind in this family. I will be using these natural remedies. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Have a non eventful Flu season!

  • Reply Anissa December 5, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Very healthy choices that we should generally incorporate for over good health! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Rhoda December 5, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    I try to add all of these things into my diet. I will have tea with ginger, salads, and I always add garlic to my dinners. Love this kick.

  • Reply Jo @ ModernRusticMom December 5, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    I wish I saw this last week! We all had a nasty cold. I doubt it’ll be the last though so thank you for this post.

  • Reply Kyla Matton Osborne December 5, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    It’s good to see such a balanced post about what can be a controversial topic! The flu vaccine does help us to produce antibodies so we can more effectively fight off influenza if we are exposed. But as you say, it is not 100% effective. Eating well before we get sick means a stronger immune system, which can lead to less severe symptoms and shorter duration if we do get the flu.
    Kyla Matton Osborne recently posted…Healthy Living Help: How to Survive the Holiday Season Without Falling into Bad Eating HabitsMy Profile

  • Reply Jen @ Jenron-Designs December 5, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    I love this post, it is so nice to see a movement toward holistic approaches. I made a soup many years ago that had some of your listed items above and I swear that it worked over night. Broke my fever and everything, so I will also pin this for later when I get a cold. Thank for such great information especially this time of year.

  • Reply karina kappel December 5, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    Absolutely! Tis the season for colds and flu. I especially liked that you mentioned fermented foods! Last night I added kimchi to my home made tomato soup as I felt a sore throat coming on. Feeds the soul! And sore throat isn’t getting any worse! Important tips here.

  • Reply tachira wiltshire December 6, 2017 at 12:00 am

    I love this. I love all the foods that are on here. I hate being sick these will definitely come in handy for when those annoying bugs start to set in . I have never tried fermented foods I will have to make an effort to.

  • Reply erin December 6, 2017 at 2:56 am

    I love making a big pot of soup each flu season, I believe it keeps me healthier!

  • Reply Melissa December 6, 2017 at 4:54 am

    Thanks for sharing these natural approaches. I prefer going the natural route vs. relying on medicines etc. Also it’s a huge plus that I already like garlic, onion, and ginger!!!

  • Reply Sam Johnson December 6, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    If you have a cold, onions, garlic, and ginger will definitely clear you up. Soup always makes me feel better when I have a cold. Like how you included information from a Naturopathic expert.

  • Reply Matea Galean December 6, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! I was thinking all day what to make and this just looks too yummy to pass on!

  • Reply Herlina Kwee December 6, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    Great and easy tips to implement to help fight flu and cold. We do need to return to a more natural, healthier lifestyle and ditch all those refined, processed foods.
    Herlina Kwee recently posted…100 “Foot” Journey (Part 1)My Profile

  • Reply Alice Coaxum December 6, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    Good info! We make a tea or soup of ginger, onion, and garlic when we are sick. It really works. I drink veggie and fruit shakes daily.

  • Reply blackgirlzen December 7, 2017 at 12:55 am

    This is a great list! I have tried all of these remedies and they work.
    BlackgirlZen

  • Reply Amber S. December 7, 2017 at 3:36 am

    This entire list is sooo accurate! Tried and true remedies. I remember when I was growing up, my grandpa would eat a whole onion (like an apple) and put on a toboggan and wrap up in blankets so he could “sweat the cold out.” The onions and garlic smell awful but they really do work!

    Amber S. | http://www.thesuburbansocialite.com

  • Reply Tricia Yang December 7, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Ginger will definitely clear you up when you are sick. I once had a ginger smoothie and it was definitely strong.

  • Reply Nicole December 11, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I’m totally up for finding ways to keep the cold and flu at bay in my house. Thanks for these tips.

  • Reply Hannah Denton December 11, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Garlic is my absolute fave! I’ll be alright! 😉

  • Reply Shaylynn Pech December 11, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    This is the perfect list for the upcoming cold and flu season. I’m dreading our household getting sick, so I’ll have to try some of these out with my kids and myself!

  • Reply Rita Pearl X December 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Very informative and to the point. Thanks for sharing Angela! by the way, I’m here from Allie’s Fashion Alley’s bloggers support.
    – Rita Pearl X

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