The flu—or influenza, as it is commonly referred to—is a viral infection which affects millions of people every year. Although the flu is not serious for most of us, it can cause very unpleasant symptoms. The flu vaccination is also not the best protection against the flu virus, as research has previously shown; in fact, I still got quite ill after I got the flu shot!
If you’re wondering how to get rid of the flu without resorting to vaccines and prescriptions, there are healthy foods you can eat to lower your risk of contracting the virus. These healthy foods may even help you cope with the flu symptoms if you are unlucky enough to have caught it. In my opinion, the key to avoiding the flu or managing the symptoms is immune enhancement—and that can be done by eating these healthy foods.
1. Brightly Colored Fruits and Vegetables
Foods like citrus, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli have large quantities of vitamin C, which is an essential vitamin for increasing the immune response. Vitamin C helps stimulate white blood cells, which can engulf and destroy viruses which invade your nose, throat, and upper lungs. This vitamin can also help get rid of the flu symptoms faster. I also think that if you eat two to three servings of healthy foods that contain vitamin C, your immune system will be ready to handle any viruses that you’ll be exposed to—this is definitely a must if you want to know how to get rid of the flu.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and spinach are also healthy foods you should add to your diet. These brightly colored vegetables contain high amounts of carotenoids, which are very important for proper immune response. The most plentiful carotenoid is beta-carotene. This pigment can stimulate the immune response directly or by converting to vitamin A. Vitamin A has a powerful influence over the immune response in the upper respiratory tract. Consuming one to two servings per day of these foods will help keep your immune system strong.
2. Red Meat and Seafood
Foods which are high in protein and from the animal kingdom contain higher concentrations of heme iron. This form of iron is much more absorbable than the form of iron found in plant foods. Iron is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system and those who suffer from anemia have an increased risk of developing an infection. The problem with iron is that excessive amounts in the body can actually make an infection worse. Consuming these foods three to four times per week in reasonable amounts should provide you will all of the iron required for normal immune function, which is very important if you want to know how to get rid of the flu. Unless you are iron deficient, there will be no reason to take an iron supplement.
Oysters are an excellent food choice if you have the flu, because they contain high amounts of zinc. This mineral is responsible for mounting a strong immune response against infections of the upper respiratory tract. For many years, zinc has been studied for its effects on sore throats, lung infections, and the immune response. Remember, a three-ounce serving of oysters yields approximately 74 milligrams (mg) of zinc! So you don’t need to eat it very much, since the daily requirement is only 10 mg.
4. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts contain high amounts of the trace mineral selenium. Selenium is an important mineral because it helps the immune system fight infections by activating key enzymes that destroy free radicals. In much the same manner with which zinc exerts its influence upon the upper respiratory system, selenium can enhance the activity of white blood cells. Brazil nuts contain over 500 micrograms (mcg) of selenium per six to eight nut serving, so you only need to eat them sparingly. Keep in mind that I typically recommend selenium in a supplement form containing a 200 mcg dose!
Having the flu is not a pleasant experience, but your chance of contracting it really depends on the strength of your immune system. If you want to know how to get rid of the flu, or how to lessen its symptoms once you have it, then start eating these healthy foods today.
Hemilä, H., et al., “Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold,” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. January 31, 2013 Jan 31;1.
Latunde-Dada, G.O., “Iron metabolism: microbes, mouse, and man,” Bioessays. December 2009; 31(12): 1309-17.
Solomons, N.W., “Update on zinc biology,” Ann Nutr Metab 2013; 62 Suppl 1:8-17.