With the changing weather, it is important to do what we can to stay healthy and take preventative steps to ward off seasonal ailments such as the common cold and the flu. While simple steps such as regular hand washing is a top prevention strategy, it is also important to keep our immune system healthy with regular exercise, proper diet and getting an adequate dose of sleep.

Foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help bolster your immune system, help fight infection, and reduce inflammation. By incorporating certain immune-boosting foods into your regular diet, you can be on your way to a healthier season.

Garlic

Garlic contains allicin, an organo-sulfuric compound that produces powerful antioxidants, and it also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. A study published in Advances in Therapy showed that people who took garlic supplements during the winter for 12 weeks (November – February) experienced fewer colds, and if they did get sick, felt better faster than those in a placebo group. Eating raw garlic provides the most antioxidants.

Blueberries

Blueberries contain a number of antioxidants like vitamin C and anthocyanins (one of the most potent antioxidants around), as well as anti-viral properties like quercetin. Blueberries also contain zinc, which has been shown to shorten the duration of cold symptoms.

Dark chocolate

Pure cocoa is a powerhouse of antioxidants and flavonoids. Ounce for ounce, cocoa has more polyphenols (disease-fighting antioxidants) than most berries. It also has loads of zinc, which may ward off colds. To get the immunity-boosting benefits of dark chocolate, opt for options that have a cocoa content of at least 70% or more, and only eat about ¼ of an ounce a day.

Citrus fruits

Studies have shown that if you load up on vitamin C at the first signs of illness, you can reduce the duration of the illness by about a day and may also diminish symptoms. There are vitamin C supplements and cold remedies containing vitamin C on store shelves, but consuming a lot of citrus, such as oranges and grapefruits, can do the trick naturally. Another vitamin C powerhouse is red peppers – in fact, a single red pepper may have more vitamin C than a medium-sized orange.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11697022

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287710.php

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23775705

http://www.everydayhealth.com/cold-and-flu/1210/chocolate-a-cure-for-the-common-cough-4924.aspx

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23440782