We often call winter “cold and flu season” and think of it as the time of year when colds and flus are as unavoidable as the arrival of the season. We wait for colds and flus to strike and then reach for an over-the-counter medicine to make us feel better. Nutritionists and holistic practitioners recommend another way to beat colds and flus naturally: with disease fighting foods.

Flu Fighting Fruits and Vegetables

“Superfood” is a word that was coined to describe foods that do more than provide nutrition. Superfoods can fight a host of diseases — from the common cold to heart disease and cancer. Once considered myths by conventional medicine, numerous studies have shown that superfoods really are “super” and can help prevent disease. What is their secret? In a word, it’s antioxidants.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals found in fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that fight the formation of free radicals. What are free radicals? The science is complex, but basically they are groups of atoms that are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. As they multiply, free radicals can do tremendous damage to the system. Antioxidants are the “warriors” that fight free radicals.

Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods, but some foods contain more of the right kinds of antioxidants for fighting disease than others. Vitamin C, for instance, is an excellent cold and flu fighter. Oranges and other citrus fruits contain high levels of Vitamin C, but you can find the vitamin in a number of vegetables as well, including:

  • Capsicum
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet potatoes

Blueberries are considered a superfood because of the high levels of important antioxidants they contain. Blueberries are only in season during the summer months, but frozen blueberries do not lose their antioxidants and are available all year ’round. Aside from Vitamin C, blueberries also contain antioxidants called anthocyanins and phenolics, which have been shown to have cancer fighting properties. Thaw frozen blueberries rather than heat or cook them. Heating blueberries can reduce or destroy their antioxidant properties.

Onions and Garlic Repel Disease, too

garlic and garlic pressAdmittedly, some people will keep their distance from you if your breath smells like onions or garlic. However, disease will keep its distance, too, if you make onions and garlic part of your winter diet. Both of these foods contain ingredients that work together to prevent and even help reduce the symptoms and longevity of colds and flus. How do they work?

  • Their antiseptic properties kill unhealthy bacteria
  • They contain immune system boosting properties
  • They are good sources of antioxidants

In one study, researchers divided a 142 volunteers into two groups. One group of 71 was given a placebo while the other group was given a garlic supplement. Those who were given the placebo got a total of 67 colds, while the group given the garlic supplement had only 24.

Add onion and garlic to soup for a double-whammy of cold and flu prevention. Chicken noodle and other broth soups have been the home cure for colds and flus for decades and with good reason. Hot soup and hot herbal teas help reduce the inflammation that is the cause of so many flu and cold symptoms.