Ask any wellness insider about the superfoods you should be eating now that cold and flu season has kicked off, and she’ll quickly start on the virtues of kale, organic lemon, ginger, and acai berries. But we’ve all heard that stuff 10 billion times. We’re totally over the fact that lemon juice is packed with vitamin C, and vitamin C is good for your immune system. Got it.
However, there are also some less talked-about foods that can do wonders for your health right now. We’re talking about the humble fruits and veggies you walk straight past on your way to the health foods aisle. They might not be quite as trendy as #kale, but they’re just as powerful.
For some expert insight, we spoke with Washington, D.C.–based dietician and nutritionist Rebecca Scritchfield—you may have spotted her on Today, Fox News, or CNN talking about health and food—and Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP, a Manhattan-based nutritionist and author of Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body. So read and learn, folks. While everyone else in the office is sniffly and feeling sorry for themselves over the coming months, you’ll be glad you followed these tips.
Fact: Basic old green peas deserve more credit than they get. They’re actually a major source of the vitamins that help your body to fight off infections. “Green peas are a good source of vitamins A and C, folate, and fiber,” explains Scritchfield. “Vitamin C helps fight off infection and regenerate other antioxidants in the body such as vitamin E, while fiber helps maintain a healthy gut and keeps you feeling full.”
Fresh peas will last three or four days in the fridge, but Scritchfield suggests keeping a bag of the frozen variety in your freezer and adding them to salads or pasta dishes.
Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, and Dandelion
These green, leafy veggies are high in phytonutrients and vitamin A and C to support your immune system, says Valpone. And while some veggies deliver a stronger nutritional punch when raw, these ones are OK to cook, and you’ll get just as much of a benefit.
If you found this post a little too late and are already feeling a cold setting in, start munching on cauliflower. The cruciferous vegetable is packed with antioxidants and glutathione, two major power players when it comes to speeding up recovery.
Scritchfield recommends drizzling florets with olive oil and roasting them with flavorful herbs and spices or dipping raw cauliflower florets in yogurt or vinaigrette for a savory snack.
Researchers from Oregon State University found that, when combined with vitamin D, a compound called pterostilbene that’s found in blueberries can help the body fight off sickness. Blueberries are also packed with antioxidants that fight the signs of aging, so eat up.
Like cauliflower, humble broccoli is high in antioxidants and glutathione, which can really help to speed up your recovery from illness, says Scritchfield.
Garlic and Onions
And they’re best eaten raw, says Valpone. But the pungent breath is worth it, since both are packed with antimicrobial properties, meaning they can slay viruses from your system. “Eating garlic raw may not sound too appealing, so start with one clove with a slice of whole grain bread with almond butter. This way your mouth won’t burn for hours afterward!”
Egg white omelettes might be having a moment on the health scene, but during cold and flu season, you’ll want to use the whole egg. “The yolk is bursting with minerals, including zinc and selenium, which are important for healthy immune function,” notes Scritchfield.