7 Fall Superfoods That May Help Boost Your Immunity During Cold and Flu Season
When kids head back to school and the weather begins to change, we know fall is right around the corner. While the emergence of autumn brings many favorites like pumpkin spice lattes and cozy sweaters, it also signals the start of flu season, and data suggests the cooler temperatures are also associated with an increase in other infections, like the common cold.
While there's no magic food that will guarantee a sick-free fall, there are some foods that are loaded with nutrients to help keep your immune system strong. Here, you'll find seven fall favorites that certainly won't hurt your chances of staying healthy this cold and flu season. Just remember to take other steps to keep yourself in fighting shape, including getting quality sleep, incorporating moderate exercise into your routine, and properly washing your hands.
Oranges are at their freshest beginning in the late fall, and orange juice is many people's go-to when they feel a cold coming on, for good reason. One-hundred percent orange juice contains vitamin C, a nutrient that strengthens our immune systems by protecting cells and promoting the production and function of immune cells. One eight-ounce glass of OJ provides more than 100 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin C, and there are also many carotenoids found in pure orange juice — including beta carotene, alpha carotene, and beta cryptoxanthin — which can help form vitamin A in the body, an important nutrient for immune function.
Pomegranates have been enjoyed for centuries and are now thought of as a superfood because of the unique nutrients they contain. Nearly every part of the pomegranate plant is thought to be antimicrobial, meaning this seasonal fruit may prevent the growth of bacteria and viruses. Plus, both pomegranate juice and the seeds boast a wealth of immune-supporting nutrients, including vitamin C — so be sure to get your fill this fall.
Did you know garlic has a growing season? While we're fortunate to have access to jarred garlic year-round, this produce is typically harvested in September and sold during the fall. Garlic naturally contains a compound that is formed when it's crushed or chewed called allicin, which has been shown to support the immune system. In fact, results from one study suggest daily intake of aged garlic may reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms.
The natural orange color found in the flesh of sweet potatoes is due to the rich content of beta carotene, a natural antioxidant that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Since low levels of vitamin A are linked to a compromised immune system, keeping intake adequate is key during the fall. Tip: bake a few sweet potatoes at once, and use the flesh in recipes like pancakes and smoothies for a supplement-free and naturally sweet boost of nutrition.
When you're piling homemade cranberry sauce on your turkey, you can feel good knowing you are not only loading up your meal with its delicious sweet-tart flavor but also giving your body a natural boost of vitamin C and polyphenols that may support immune health. In fact, components found in cranberry juice have been shown to help prevent influenza from infecting the body, suggesting a therapeutic potential, though more research is needed.
These tart and tangy berries are in season in the fall but can be enjoyed year-round in dried or frozen varieties. Or have a glass of 100 percent cranberry juice for an immunity support that is readily available on most grocery-store shelves.
Pumpkin isn't just for carving and front-porch decor. This popular gourd is a delicious addition to any meal and loaded with immune-supporting nutrients like beta carotene, which turns to vitamin A in your body. Data suggests vitamin A may strengthen the immune system and help fight infection. Pumpkin also contains vitamin C, a nutrient known for its immune-supporting properties.
Grapes are more than a summer fruit! Throughout the fall and into the early winter, grapes are harvested in California and shipped throughout the world. Heart-healthy grapes support immune health in multiple ways. Grapes of all colors contain more than 1,600 natural plant compounds, including beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols, which have been shown to protect the health and function of our cells — a foundation for good health and well-being. Additionally, studies on individual grape compounds, including resveratrol, have shown a positive influence on immunity.
Hydration is critical to optimizing immune response, and grapes are a hydrating food, containing more than 80 percent water. Enjoying a handful of grapes is a satisfying way to support your health and your sweet tooth at the same time!