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Flu-Fighting Foods

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Flu-Fighting Foods

Fall and winter are the prime seasons to develop cold and flu symptoms. Nobody enjoys having body or muscle aches, sneezing, chills or a fever. You may have heard the phrase, “feed a cold, and starve a fever.” However, when you develop flu symptoms you do not have to force yourself to starve in order to feel better. There are many foods packed full of nutrients that will get you feeling better in no time.

Squeeze in Citrus

Citrus-containing fruits are packed with fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Vitamin C in particular has been proven to aid in collagen production and improve immune health. Whether you squeeze, zest or juice these nutrient-packed fruits, there are increased health benefits. Some of the commonly known citrus fruits include lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits. Other less common citrus include kumquats, pummelos, citron, yuzu, tangerines and tangelos.


  • Eat kumquats whole, juiced, pickled, thickened into sauces or used in chutneys.   
  • Add pummelos to salads, fish or poultry or cut up sections for an afternoon snack.   
  • Squeeze lemons and limes to dishes as a substitute to salt. This will help bring out the flavors of the dish, add sweetness and help lower your blood pressure all at the same time!

Pack in the Protein

High bioavailable sources of protein are essential when flu symptoms arise. The components of proteins help fight the antibodies found in the flu. Various studies have linked increased intake of particular amino acids such as arginine, glutamine and zinc with improved immune function. Foods that contain high sources of protein include low fat milk, eggs, chicken, fish, beef, pork, nuts, seeds, lentils and beans.


  • Keep warm with a hearty bean and lentil soup during those cooler nights.
  • Pack unsalted almonds or walnuts and cranberries for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.
  • Eat three servings of salmon or fish every week to add protein and healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids.   

Amp up Antioxidants   

Antioxidants are found in foods high in vitamin A, C, E, beta-carotene and lycopene. You can obtain vitamin A, C and E from fruits and vegetables. Foods high in beta-carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach and kale. Foods high in lycopene include watermelon, tomatoes and sweet red peppers, just to name a few. Antioxidants help our bodies reverse the production of free radicals. Free radicals can induce flu-like symptoms.


  • Try to eat more garlic, honey or cinnamon.
  • Incorporate more vegetables that are in season during fall and winter, such as pumpkin, rutabaga or any kind of squash.
  • Add sweet red peppers to sandwiches or quesadillas.       

Add Healthy Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are great for gastrointestinal health. About 70% of our immune system is located in our gut. Fermented foods, such as those seen in probiotics, provide the gut with short chain fatty acids, which aid in producing new healthy cells that help improve regularity. Probiotics are found in yogurt, kefir milk, sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheeses, sourdough bread and tempeh. Having a healthy gut can lessen your chances of catching the flu this year.  


  • Add Greek yogurt to sauces, stews or your morning breakfast.
  • Buy Kefir the next time you are grocery shopping instead of cow’s milk.
  • Order miso soup when you are out at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant.    

For more information about nutrition consultations through Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Texas Woman’s University Dietetic Student with input from Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.