This time of year is filled with goals, resolutions and big plans to get things done. But even the most dedicated among us can be taken off course by a cold or flu—or if you have kids, dozens of them. Even in ancient times, food was considered a powerful medicine. In our modern society, we’ve got the science to back up what our ancestors already knew: certain foods can help fight off unwanted germs.
These powerful foods will keep your body happy and healthy and don’t take a lot of prep time. To make the most of a healthy diet, eat as often as you can with friends and family. Research shows eating with others can boost your mood, further helping you ward off infection.
A steaming cup of tea is the ultimate comfort on a chilly day. Tea contains a group of antioxidants (catechins in green and white tea, theanine in black) that help prevent sickness from settling in. A Japanese study found regular cups of tea can prevent the flu by an impressive 75%.
How to Drink It: Boil your tea with fresh sliced ginger. Not only will you get the flu-fighting benefits of the tea, the heat will release extra antioxidants (and delicious flavor) from the ginger.
White fish like Tilapia are a germ-fighting gem. Tilapia helps your body build up your immune system and fight off infection by providing up to 15% of your daily protein intake in just one serving. Tilapia is also high in the mineral selenium, which helps white blood cells defend the body against unwanted germs.
How to Eat It: Tilapia is easy to add to just about any meal because it’s low in calories, affordable and doesn’t have a distinct “fishy” taste. Grill up this irresistible Sweet and Spicy Citrus Tilapia dish (with the added health benefits of garlic and citrus) for a quick meal. Or dream about summer with these mouth-watering fish tacos.
How happy are you to see chocolate on this list? Cocoa packs a higher antioxidant punch than red wine, and cocoa extracts have been used in healthcare to prevent infection. The flavonols in cocoa also reduce anxiety and increase calmness—and studies show people who are happier stay healthier.
How to Eat It: The health benefits of cocoa can be eclipsed by added sugar and saturated fat. Choose chocolate with a 70% cocoa content or higher and eat no more than one or two ounces, or about 150 calories worth, a day.
Ergothioneine is a little known “master oxidant” found in mushrooms. It helps get rid of free radicals in your body that cause disease and damage. Mushrooms also have natural antibiotics that prevent microbial growth and fungal infections, and help regulate your immune system.
How to Eat It: Mushrooms hold their own in this Easy Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms recipe. Enjoy the comfort of this delicious seafood chowder on a cold day and get the illness-fighting benefits of both mushrooms and fish.
Citrus fruits are often seen as summer foods, but navel oranges are actually in season from January until April. In these early months, they are irresistibly juicy and sweet. You may already know that oranges’ Vitamin C content is useful once you’re sick, but the polyphenols in oranges also help prevent your body from developing infections.
How to Eat It: Oranges are versatile as a flavorful ingredient in desserts, fruit salads or dressings. Add them to a smoothie or eat them whole as an energy-rich breakfast food or afternoon snack.
Staying Healthy All Year Long
Using these healthy-eating tips, you’ll come out of the winter months healthy and ready to enjoy the summer. As temperatures warm, don’t forget to add these immune-boosting summer foods to your plate to keep your body strong all year.