14 Foods to Boost Your Immune System for Cold & Flu Season

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14 Foods to Boost Your Immune System for Cold & Flu Season TEXT

Get the jump on cold and flu season this year by fortifying your immune system with foods high in vitamins A, B2, B6, C, D, and E, as well as Zinc and Selenium – all important nutrients for cold and flu prevention.  While you probably already know of a handful of foods which contain these important vitamins and minerals, we’ve put together a list of 14 of the best which contain the highest concentrations of immune-boosting nutrients for you to add to your cold and flu survival shopping list.

1. Sweet Potato

One of the best sources of vitamin A you can eat, the average Sweet Potato is only around 100 calories (sans fixings) and contains over 20,000 IU of this essential nutrient. That’s over 400% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A.

Sweet Potatoes also offer up a healthy dose of Vitamin C (about 22 mg – 37% DV) and Vitamin B6 (.3 mg – 16% DV) as well as trace amounts of B2, E, Zinc and Selenium.

2. Carrots

Coming in at a close second on the top of the Vitamin A list are carrots. Just one cup of sliced raw carrots nets you about 20,000 IU for only 50 calories. Carrots also contain a modest amount of Vitamin C (about 7 mg – 12% DV) and Vitamin B6 (.2 mg – 10% DV).

Enjoy carrots raw or try them in this Carrot Quinoa Grain Medley on WebMD.com!

3. Kale

One of two dark leafy greens on our list, Kale packs a powerful punch when it comes to keeping the immune system strong. With almost 10,000 IU of Vitamin A (almost 200% DV) and 17 mg of Vitamin C (27% DV) per cup, as well as small quantities of Vitamins B2, B6, Zinc and Selenium, you’ll definitely want to add Kale to your cold and flu prevention diet.

4. Spinach

The other superstar of the dark leafy green category, spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. Just one cup of spinach contains 11,500 IU (230% DV) of Vitamin A, 3.5 mg (17% DV) of Vitamin E, as well as moderate amounts of Vitamins B2, B6, C, Zinc and Selenium. Spinach is also an excellent source of other important minerals including Iron, Magnesium, and Calcium.

We recommended lightly steaming or sauteing your spinach in extra virgin olive oil to help your body more easily digest its many vital nutrients.

5. Sweet Peppers

Sweet yellow and red peppers are at the very top of the list of foods highest in Vitamin C. One cup (approximately 150 g) contains about 275 mg (460% DV) and only 40 calories. Sweet peppers are also a great source of hydration, another important part of keeping your body healthy during the dry cold and flu months.

6. Kiwi Fruit

This delicious little tropical fruit is another excellent source of Vitamin C at 137 mg per serving (about two average sized fruits). That’s well over 100% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C in just one kiwi!

Kiwi fruit makes a delicious addition to a healthy breakfast.  Learn more about the most important meal of the day in this great article: 9 Reasons Why You Should Eat Breakfast Every Day + 10 Healthy Breakfast Recipes

7. Almonds

One of the best sources of Vitamins E and B2, raw almonds offer up about 7.3 mg (35% DV) and .28 mg (17% DV) respectively per 1 ounce serving (approximately 23 nuts). Almonds are also packed with protein, calcium, and magnesium at 6 g (12% DV), 74.6 mg (7% DV), and 75.7 mg (109% DV) respectively per ounce.

As the best vegetarian source of Vitamin B2, a 1 ounce serving of raw organic almonds is a must-have not only for cold and flu prevention, but as part of your every-day healthy diet.

8. Avocado

One medium size avocado (approximately 200g) contains a little over 4 mg of Vitamin E (20% DV), 20 mg of Vitamin C (34% DV), .26 mg of Vitamin B2 (15% DV), .5 mg of Vitamin B6 (26% DV), as well as small amounts of Vitamin A and Zinc. In addition, avocado is full of nourishing oils and amino acids making this one well-rounded fruit for good health.

Want to know more about this quirky little fruit?  Be sure to read up on the 20 Reasons Why You Should Eat An Entire Avocado Every Day

9. Eggs

While eggs have gotten a bad reputation for their high cholesterol content, they’re actually quite good for you in moderation – yolks included! One large hard-boiled egg contains around .26 mg of Vitamin B2 (15% DV) and 15.4 μg of Selenium (22% DV), plus small amounts of Vitamins A, B6, D, E, and Zinc.

Eggs are also packed with protein, making them an excellent choice for an afternoon snakc that will help you keep your energy high as the temperature drops and the days get shorter.

10. Mushrooms

Low in calories and containing almost no fat, but high in protein plus a variety of immune-boosting nutrients, mushrooms are one of the most under-rated healthy foods. All mushrooms provide a moderate amount of B vitamins, including B2 – up to .35 mg (21% DV) per cup, sliced. Some varieties like Portabella and Crimini also offer up a fair amount of Selenium – an average of 17 μg (25% DV) per cup of sliced mushrooms. Others such as Morel and Maitake also contain vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol) – 204 IU and 1124 IU, respectively.

Not sure which mushrooms to pick? Crimini mushrooms are widely considered to be the healthiest of them all!

11. Trout & Salmon

Short of taking supplements, oily fish like trout and salmon are the best food sources of Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol). Trout weighs in at 645 IU (108% DV) per 3 ounce serving. Smoked salmon places a close second at 582 IU (97% DV) per 3 ounces while baked or grilled salmon comes in around 446 IU (75% DV) per 3 ounce serving.  Other oily fish which are good sources of Vitamin D3 include Swordfish, Mackerel, Tuna, Halibut, and Tilapia.

If you aren’t a fan of fish, you can still get your fish oil in supplement form to boost your Vitamin D.

12. Oysters

When it comes to foods with high Zinc content, nothing beats the almighty oyster. A half dozen of these incredible mollusks pack a whopping 33 mg of Zinc – about 220% of the recommended daily intake. Oysters are also an excellent source of Vitamin B12 and Selenium at 7.35 μg (123% DV) and 16.59 μg (24% DV) respectively per half dozen.

13. Beef & Lamb

Red meat is another food that doesn’t often make it onto the “healthy” list. However, both beef and lamb are ideal foods for cold and flu prevention. Lean beef is a good source of Zinc – around 10.4 mg (70% DV), Selenium – 30.6 μg (44% DV), Vitamin B2 – .24 mg (14% DV), and Vitamin B6 – .28 mg (14% DV) per 3 ounce serving. Somewhat higher in fat content, lean cuts of lamb still make it onto the list with an average of 4 mg (27% DV) of Zinc, 23.1 μg (33% DV) of Selenium, .22 mg (13% DV) of Vitamin B2, and .12 mg (6% DV) of Vitamin B6 per 3 ounce serving.

14. Brazil Nuts

The single best food source of Selenium, Brazil nuts boast an incredible 537 μg (767% DV) of Selenium per ounce. That’s about 96 μg (137% DV) of Selenium per kernel! Brazil nuts also contain small amounts of Vitamin E and Zinc at 1.58 mg (8% DV) and 1.14 mg (8% DV) per ounce, respectively.

Think you might already have a cold or flu bug?  Know that you do?  Check out these 13 Foods to Help You Beat the Flu and Feel Better Faster!


This is part 5 of our 5 part series: “The Ultimate Guide To Beating Cold & Flu With The Power Of Nature“. To check out the rest of this series, use the links below:

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