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Top Immunity-Boosting Foods for Back to School

When the kids are back in the classroom, homework and art projects aren’t the only things they’re bringing home. Colds, strep, the flu. All the bugs that are so easily passed from child to child and classroom to classroom until they make their way to your house. And then the whole family is sick. 


Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold and there is no vaccine against it, either. But there are plenty of things you and your family can do to strengthen your immune system before and during the school year so it has a better chance of fighting off the cold bugs and other germs. And even better, a lot of these things can be found in your pantry. We’ve compiled a few foods every parent should be stocking to bolster their family’s immune system for the new school year. 


Citrus fruits

Most people turn to these sunny fruits or a big glass of OJ after getting a cold because fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, are loaded with vitamin C which is a known immunity builder. Our bodies don’t make vitamin C on their own, so we need to get it from the food we eat to supply it with what it needs. You can eat these on their own or add a squeeze to your water (which you need more of already to fight off an oncoming illness!).

  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Grapefruit
  • Clementines
  • Lemons
  • Limes

Elderberry

You can find this old folk remedy in syrups and now in some homeopathic remedies at the grocery store. It’s long been used to fight off illness, but science is just now realizing why. It’s loaded with antioxidants and may even help fight inflammation. Some studies have shown an extract from the berries to block the flu virus. 


Red bell pepper

Citrus fruits aren’t the only way to get in your daily dose of vitamin C. These sweet red peppers are loaded with vitamin C, almost three times as much as an orange actually! Plus, they contain beta carotene which your body converts to vitamin A, which is responsible for healthy skin and eyes. You can also find beta carotene in sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mangoes, broccoli, and tomatoes.


Yogurt

Loaded with “live and active cultures,” yogurt contains good bacteria called probiotics that create a healthy environment in your gut. These probiotics may also help lessen the severity of the common cold. Plus, yogurt is loaded with vitamin D, and studies have shown that people with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to get colds or the flu. You can find probiotics in other fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir.


Spinach

Popeye wasn’t just throwing back cans of this superfood for nothing. Spinach is loaded with immune-boosting nutrients, one of which is folate which helps your body build new cells and repair DNA. It also is packed with fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants, which neutralize harmful free radicals in our bodies. 


Watermelon

Stock up on this summer staple to get a jumpstart on a healthier cold and flu season. Watermelon contains an antioxidant called glutathione, which strengthens the immune system to fight off infection. 


Shellfish

Probably not what comes to mind when you’re thinking about cold-fighting foods, but certain types of shellfish pack a punch when it comes to zinc. Zinc is a mineral that our bodies need so that our immune cells can function properly. But don’t feel like you need to overdo it on the zinc. Too much zinc can have the opposite effect. The recommended daily amounts are 11mg for adult men, and 8mg for adult women. 


Types of shellfish highest in zinc:

  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Mussels

Not a shellfish fan? You can also find zinc in plant-based sources, including wheat germ, beans, nuts, and tofu.


Chicken soup

There’s a reason why mom’s chicken soup has reigned supreme as a cold and flu remedy for decades. Whether it’s homemade or store-bought, a bowl of chicken soup is thought to lower inflammation which can help reduce the severity if you do catch a cold. 


Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6. About 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken contains nearly one-third of your daily recommended amount of B-6, which is vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Plus, there's a chemical in chicken breast called carnosine that can protect your body from the flu virus. 


What’s more, when you boil chicken bones to make broth or stock, you get a healthy broth that contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity. 


Next time you go to the grocery store, add these to your shopping list for a healthier and hopefully cold-free fall.