Get the Skinny on Immune-Boosting Foods and Supplements

BrazilCookingLifestyle and LeisureFlu

Flu season is here, so it’s as important as ever to be extra-diligent with everyday prevention like hand-washing and getting enough sleep.  And what we eat can play a role in fending off the sniffles, aches & pains.  

Chicken Soup

It provide fluids that can help fight off colds, and it has been shown to reduce the inflammation that’s associated with viruses.  Plus, the warm liquid can help to loosen congestion.  And good news for those not-so-handy in the kitchen:  commercial soups appear to be about as effective as homemade chicken soup prepared from scratch!

Vitamin C

Taking extra vitamin C doesn’t seem to help prevent us from catching a cold, but it may shorten the duration of a cold.  Taking high doses of vitamin C (1,000 mg daily to as much as 8,000 milligrams) has been shown to help decrease the duration of cold symptoms by 1 to 1.5 days.  

It’s nearly impossible to get that much vitamin C through food alone (an orange has just over 60 mg), so supplementation is needed for these high doses. 


Preliminary research shows that garlic might reduce the frequency and number of colds, but many of the studies used a highly concentrated extract that provided the equivalent of 20 to 30 cloves of garlic!  So while adding garlic (and onions & leeks) to your diet have some benefit, you’re more likely to reap the cold-fighting benefits if you use a supplemental garlic extract.

Selenium-Rich Foods

A single Brazil nut contains 95 mcg of selenium, just over the Daily Value for selenium.  Research has shown that consuming about 300 mcg of selenium daily helped to strengthen the immune system – a dosage easily obtained from as few as 3 Brazil nuts.  Other food sources include lobster, oysters, crabs, & tuna.


Glutathione is a compound that’s primarily produced by the liver and is involved in immune system function.  Exercise appears to boost glutathione levels, but diet doesn’t seem to have much of an impact.   Even though glutathione is present in fruits, vegetables, and meats, the levels in the body don’t seem to be related to food intake.  However, supplementing with glutathione precursors, including glutamine and n-acetylcysteine, might increase glutathione levels


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