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Individuals tend to develop colds more frequently during the winter months because of the increased time spent indoors. This close contact with others allows for the spread of viruses and creates a great environment for them to survive. Adding a few natural immune boosters to your daily diet can protect you and your family from falling ill during the flu season.

Vitamin C: During periods of stress and infection, vitamin C stores are depleted throughout the body. Vitamin C has been shown to shorten the duration of respiratory infections and cold symptoms, and also supports the immune system. Adding oranges, kiwi fruit, and bell peppers to your diet can give you a little extra vitamin C, and taking a supplement at the first sign of a cold can keep you from being stuck in bed for several days.

Zinc: This mineral is essential for cells in the body to fight off infection. Based on a recent Review, when Zinc is taken within the first 24 hours of cold symptoms it can shorten the duration by several days.  Foods such as oysters, spinach, chicken, nuts, and beans are good sources of zinc. Beware that too much zinc is also harmful and can have the opposite effect.

Green Tea: Green tea contains catechins and theanine. Catechins are known for their ability to fight oxidation, a process that damages cells.  Research suggests that these ingredients can be potent flu fighters. One study showed that individuals receiving green tea extract had a significantly lower instance of influenza than the placebo group. Among other things, green tea is also known for its potent immune boosting, antioxidant powers.  Consuming 2-4 cups daily can help you stay cold free.

Raw Garlic: This pungent superfood is a powerful flu fighter. Garlic contains compounds called allion and allicin, which have direct antiviral effects. If you happen to come in contact with a flu virus, garlic can help destroy it before it becomes a full-blown flu in the body. To get the most out of garlic’s flu-fighting properties, it’s best to chew a raw clove every three or four hours. If you can’t bear the taste, try cutting cloves into pieces and swallowing them down like pills. Or mix crushed garlic with honey, which is also reputed to have antiviral properties. Still not in love with idea of eating raw garlic? Add a few extra cloves to a soup or stir-fry. Even if it is cooked, it still has sulfur-containing compounds, which have anti-microbial activity as well.

Spices: Spices such as turmeric, cloves and cinnamon are packed with antioxidants, which help improve the function of the immune system. Try mixing some cinnamon into your morning oatmeal or sprinkling extra nutmeg. If you’re already feeling ill, Ayurveda recommends using spices to help sweat out a fever: Sip a tea from a mixture of boiling water, 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each of cinnamon and coriander and 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) of powdered ginger to help bring your temperature down.

Chicken soup: Researchers are finding that soup works to ward off viruses. One theory is that hot soup raises the temperature in the nose and throat, which creates an unwelcoming environment for viruses that thrive in cool and dry places. Homemade chicken soup has protein groups that have been shown to have anti-viral activity.

Astragalus: The root of this plant is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Astragalus is known to protect the body against immune stressors. It is also thought to help boost the immune system and prevent the flu and upper respiratory infections. It has a particularly potent anti-viral effect, therefore it is recommended to protect against the flu. Taking 200mg up to twice a day can help you avoid cold and flu symptoms. Check with your physician before taking this supplement, because it can affect the metabolism of certain other medications.