Cold and Flu Season: What’s food got to do with it?

Food and Flu - Pile of Veggies on Table

Flu seasons have been especially bad the last few years and the 2018-19 one is no different.

The flu shot is proven to tremendously help prevent the worst of it. But can what you eat and drink actually help you survive?

More than 6.2 million people have been sick with the flu since October in the United States. At least half of them seeking medical care for their illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In California alone, 42 people had died of influenza this flu season, which runs through May and typically reaches its height in February.

So, what can you do?

Aside from getting the ever-crucial flu shot, you can start in your kitchen.
The flu and common cold attack bodies with low immune systems, but there are numerous places in your daily nutrition where you fortify your defensive strength.

“The key is a balanced meal intake. My advice is to eat variety -color your plate with different vegetables and fruits in addition to whole grains, dairy and protein food. Each food (mainly healthy food) provide multiple nutrients which can help to boost your immune system! ” -Naoko Nagaya

Kick your immune system into overdrive with these nutrient-rich options:


Fresh or frozen, these little balls of brawn are loaded with antioxidants along with quercetin. This is a flavonoid that the body accepts as an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. They can also provide relief to some with allergy-like symptoms including a runny nose and watery eyes. Pile them into a smoothie or onto a cup of low-fat yogurt. Speaking of which…

Low-fat yogurt —

Yogurt is loaded with probiotics, proven to ease the effects and severity of cold symptoms. Stir in some unsweetened cocoa powder (raw or non-alkalized) to up the game by lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain and heart — plus, it’ll be tastier.


Many don’t realize the high levels of vitamin C found in garlic, but it’s true! Just 1 ounce of garlic, or about three cloves, offers 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Additionally, garlic is plentiful in allicin, a sulfuric compound with strong antioxidants. Garlic supplements, particularly aged garlic extract or AGE, may be a suitable replacement.


Research has shown that vitamin C can shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms. Although, orange slices and other citrus options don’t off the best bang for your buck. A cup of kiwi provides 273 percent of your daily need for vitamin C. This is far more than the 160 percent oranges offer or the 120 percent provided by grapefruit.


The antiviral properties in this fungi help strengthen the body against a variety of diseases. Including the flu, thanks in part to a type of carbohydrate they contain called glucans. Maximize their immune-boosting benefits by eating a variety, like maitake, shiitake, and white button.


A healthy option for solid protein consumption, salmon is also rich in vitamin D and omega-3s that bolster the immune system while also helping reduce the risk of heart disease.


If you’re looking for a hearty superfood, broccoli could be your answer. Long touted as one of the healthiest vegetables, broccoli is chock-full of vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber. You’ll also find in these little green trees vitamin A, calcium, potassium and even some protein.

Sweet potatoes 

Sweet potatoes can serve as a main course, side dish or a dessert, providing remarkable versatility and superfood powers. One of the world’s top sources of dietary fiber, these orange wonders are high in potassium and contain 100-percent of the RDA for vitamin A. They’re also loaded with choline, which will help you get to sleep better, a strong component of preventing and recovering from illness.

“Ever wonder if you’re eating behavior is well-balanced or have a concern about your nutrition intake? It’s not a bad idea to stop at the dietitian’s office.”

Naoko Nagaya, RD - Nutrition

Heritage members do you want more information on nutrition and healthy eating? Schedule a session now with Naoko Nagaya