Pumpkin, butternut squash, and other deep-hued orange produce provide beta-carotene, which is converted in the body to vitamin A. The squash is also packed with vitamin C.
Zinc has been identified with healthy immune systems, and it’s a good idea to get enough of the mineral in your diet no matter what.
The “Forgotten Nutrient”
Water is the largest single constituent of the human body―contributing to at least half your body weight―but it’s also a forgotten nutrient. This essential nutrient (meaning it’s one the body can’t produce on its own) promotes healthy muscle, bone, and blood. Adequate hydration is even more important once you’re sick because fluids lost through sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny nose need replacing. When you have a mild fever, your body becomes more dehydrated as a result. So drinking plenty of fluids is probably the first line of defense.
Water, coffee, tea, and juice, as well as water-filled foods such as fruit, vegetables, soups, and stews all count toward daily hydration needs.
Two Foods to Watch
Yogurt: The live active cultures in yogurt make it a probiotic, a source of good bacteria that may bolster the digestive system and improve regularity. Daily supplementation of probiotics during a three-month period shaved two days off common cold episodes and reduced the severity of symptoms, according to a German study. The catch: No one knows exactly what dose―or which strains―of friendly bacteria work best for what conditions. But plain yogurt is a great way to gain calcium and potassium, both of which are linked with improved heart and bone health.
Green Tea: The catechins and other plant-based compounds in green tea may be linked to helping prevent colds and influenza. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that consuming green tea increased immune cells, boosting their ability to fight an affront to the system. In theory, that may translate to fewer colds and flu, says naturopathic physician Paul Anderson of Seattle’s Bastyr University. And if you get a cold, “it may be less severe,” he adds. The catch: “You’d need to drink at least eight to 10 cups a day of green tea,” Anderson says, to match the antioxidant amounts used in studies. If nothing else, green tea doesn’t seem to hurt, and a cup of hot tea contributes to your daily fluid needs.