The Most Vitamin-Packed Fruits and Vegetables to Eat During Cold Season
Our diet is the first line of defense for staying healthy. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation in our bodies and keep us nourished from head to toe. Here are six foods that will help to keep you feeling your best in cold and flu season.
An apple a day really might keep the doctor away. Apples contain quercetin, a compound that helps regulate the immune system and may reduce inflammation. Plus, the pectin in apples functions as a prebiotic, which helps your good gut bacteria thrive. Pectin is also a soluble fiber, and a study from the University of Illinois found that soluble fiber "changes the personality of immune cells" stating that they go from being pro-inflammatory (angry cells), to anti-inflammatory (healing cells), that help us recover faster from infection.
Whether orange, purple or any of the other colors of sweet potatoes available now, all are incredibly rich in beta-carotene which is converted to Vitamin A, a nutrient that contributes to the development of healthy connective tissue (that is, skin). Skin is your body's first line of defense against invading pathogens. Vitamin A is also critical to a healthy immune system, and low blood levels have been linked to reduced immunity. One thing you may not think of when it comes to a healthy immune system is the role that your gut plays. Vitamin A is key for maintaining healthy mucous membranes, especially the lining of your gut. Remember, a healthy gut is an important part of a healthy immune system.
Fresh pomegranate season is short, October through January, but delicious. Luckily there's pomegranate juice available year round. An in-vitro study conducted by UCLA concluded that pomegranate juice has, on average, more antioxidant capacity than red wine, grape juice, or green tea. Pomegranates and pomegranate juice contain polyphenols—a type of antioxidant known to combat unstable molecules that can cause damage to your cells and DNA over time. The deep red arils have anthocyanins, while the rind and white pith surrounding the arils have ellagitannins. Some pomegranate juice, like POM Wonderful, is made by pressing the entire pomegranate, so that you get the fighting power of both types of polyphenols. A half a cup of arils is a great-tasting way to enjoy antioxidants and a good source of fiber (4 grams per half cup serving). Whether you enjoy the whole fruit arils or pomegranate juice, you are still making a powerful, nutrient-packed choice.
They're not colorful like pomegranates or sweet potatoes, but mushrooms are still a great choice to boost immune health. A study conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, shows that the consumption of mushrooms boosts white blood cell production, which contributes to enhancing immune function. Think of white blood cells as your immunity cells. They flow through your bloodstream to fight viruses and bacteria that can compromise your immune system.
Spinach contains numerous cold-fighting nutrients, including flavonoids, carotenoids (which is converted into vitamin A when eaten), vitamin C, and vitamin E. Antioxidants like beta carotene increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. Spinach is healthiest when it's cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. It also contains folate, which is another immune booster.
Fennel is rich in certain compounds that help loosen chest mucus and soothe a sore throat. It's also rich in selenium which appears to stimulate the production of killer T-cells. Killer T-cells find and destroy infected cells that have been turned into virus-making factories. The common cold is a viral infectious disease that infects the upper respiratory system. Roast fennel to bring out its anise flavor; try it roasted alongside other fall-winter vegetables like butternut squash, carrots, and Brussels sprouts, or add thin slices to a kale salad.