Along with holiday celebrations and chilly weather, the close of the year also brings flu season, which according to the Centers for Disease Control, usually peaks in February.  Now is the time to think about shoring up our immune systems. One of the best ways to do that is to consider what you put on your plate. For advice, I turned to registered dietitian nutritionist and healing foods expert, Vicki Shanta Retlny,, who passed along her recommendations for what to eat to keep the bugs at bay:

5 Flu-Fighting and Healing Foods

By Vicki Shanta Retlny, RDN

As a mom of two school-aged children, my goal is to tackle flu season head on with a daily dose of immune-boosting foods. Real food can come to your rescue and heal your body, as well as defend it against ailments caused by the common cold and flu. Here are five nutrient-rich remedies that I swear by from my book, The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods.

  1. Black and BlueberriesCompounds called anthocyanins, primarily found in the dark blue, purplish pigment of the berry’s skin, are believed to be responsible for their powerful defense against immune-busting invaders. Cold, flu and even normal aging processes may be thwarted by adding berries to your daily diet. Toss blueberries or blackberries into oatmeal, salads or smoothies for an extra immune boost.
  2. Yogurt – A cup of yogurt a day can help keep your immune system strong. Yogurt is made from fermented milk, which contains powerful “friendly bacteria” called probiotics. With an army of 100 trillion colonies of these microscopic bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract working hard every day to combat the ill-effects of the bad bugs, eating probiotic-rich yogurt can add extra defense. Check the label for “live, active cultures” to denote the presence of these live beneficial bugs. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit to avoid a lot of excess sugar and additives.
  3. Broccoli – This leafy green crucifer packs a punch against colds, flu and chronic ailments like cancer, heart and eye diseases. Broccoli contains high levels of an antiviral and antibacterial compound, diindolylmethane, which may also fend off certain cancers. It also contains carotenoids like lutein, which fends off free radical damage, which can cause illness and weaken your immune system. Steam or roast broccoli and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and twist of lemon.
  4. Mushrooms – White button mushrooms contain immune-boosting properties, thanks to significant levels of the antioxidant, selenium and B-vitamins, niacin and riboflavin. Selenium is instrumental in fending off viral infections – and low levels of niacin and riboflavin have been found to make the body susceptible to infection. Sometimes these white fungi are exposed to ultraviolet light to increase their vitamin D content, which add to their immune-boosting benefits. Look on the label for vitamin D3 in the mushrooms as a 3-ounce serving can contain 400 IU of vitamin D – that’s as much as 20 minutes of sun exposure and almost 100 percent of the recommended daily dose for adults
  5. Almonds – These crunchy tree nuts contain a powerful amount of the antioxidant, vitamin E, which defends cells from damage and also plays a big role in immune function. Enjoy an ounce of almonds – that’s 23 almonds a day, and you may help your body fend off chronic diseases and illness. Toss almonds with a bit of dried fruit, cinnamon and nutmeg for a fun fall fiesta mix. Try my recipe for Sweet and Spicy Autumn Almonds.

Sweet and Spicy almonds




About Vicki

Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN is The Lifestyle Nutritionist™ because she believes that real, healing food can fit into every lifestyle. She lives to eat well with her family in Chicago. For Vicki’s recipes and writings, visit her blog,