5 Fall Superfoods to Support Your Immune System during Cold and Flu Season

·4 min read

Pictured Recipe: Massaged Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Beans

The temperatures are dropping and sweater weather is nearly upon us. Here at EatingWell, this is when we bust out our slow cookers or turn to comforting fall soups. Though fall can bring a variety of delicious seasonal flavors, the cooler temps can also bring on cold and flu season. While no specific food is a surefire way to prevent illness, there are certain foods and nutrients to eat more of for a healthy immune system.

The term "superfoods" doesn't have a strict definition, and there aren't actually foods with superpowers. But there are plenty of healthy foods, packed with nutrients, that are worth a spot on your plate this season. Here are five fall favorites that can help support your immune system during cold and flu season.

1. Kale

Massaged Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Beans
Massaged Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Beans

Jacob Fox

It's probably no surprise to see this healthy superstar on this list. Kale has built a reputation of being a superfood for all of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it packs into a single serving. Plus, there are many reasons to add some kale to your eating pattern, from strengthening your bones to promoting heart health. When it comes to your immune system, kale also boasts some benefits. You can get 22% of the Daily Value of vitamin C from 1 cup of raw kale. Plus, leafy greens can help lower inflammation levels in the body that are commonly associated with illness.

2. Pumpkin

Four Bean Pumpkin Chili
Four Bean Pumpkin Chili

Pictured Recipe: Four-Bean & Pumpkin Chili

From the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte to Pumpkin Pancakes and more, there are so many ways to enjoy this versatile fall veg. Not only is it a must-have flavor this time of year, but it also has some impressive nutrition and health benefits. Pumpkins are packed with the precursor nutrients that our body uses to make vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for supporting healthy immunity, and might even make your flu shot more effective. Whether it's a can of pumpkin or whole roasted, enjoy the tasty orange veg today.

3. Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cider Vinaigrette
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cider Vinaigrette

Jacob Fox

Pictured Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cider Vinaigrette

Whether you enjoy your Brussel sprouts roasted with garlic and Parmesan or turned into Brussels Sprout Chips, this healthy fall veg deserves superfood status. Brussel sprouts have a host of health benefits, and supporting healthy immunity is among them. A 1-cup serving has about 75 milligrams of vitamin C, which means you can almost meet the DV (which is 90 mg) from one meal. Vitamin C helps keep your immune system strong by slowing the production of free radicals, which reduces chronic inflammation in the body that can cause illness.

4. Butternut Squash

butternut squash soup with apple grilled cheese sandwiches
butternut squash soup with apple grilled cheese sandwiches

Pictured Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Aside from being a standby for fall soups, butternut squash is packed with immune-supporting nutrients. One cup of cooked, cubed butternut squash has over 100% of the DV of vitamin A and is high in vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. Vitamin A and vitamin C are crucial nutrients to help support a healthy immune system and reduce inflammation. And research has found that butternut squash's high levels of antioxidants, carotenoids in particular, play an important role in immune function.

5. Apples

Mixed Greens with Lentils and Sliced Apples
Mixed Greens with Lentils and Sliced Apples

Pictured Recipe: Mixed Greens with Lentils & Sliced Apple

There are dozens of kinds of apples that serve a variety of purposes, from topping a salad to baking a pie. This popular fruit packs some impressive nutrition and health benefits, too. One medium apple has about 10% of the DV of vitamin C. Plus, apples are packed with antioxidants, like quercetin and catechin, that help reduce inflammation. Much like the old adage suggests, an apple a day just might help keep the doctor away.

Bottom Line

Though no single food is sure to completely prevent you from coming down with a cold, eating a well-rounded healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is a good way to support your immune system. That, in addition to practicing good hygiene, like regularly washing your hands, sanitizing high-touch surfaces, wearing a mask and social distancing when necessary, can also help keep you healthy. These fall favorites take on "superfood" status to us because of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they pack. For more inspiration on how to use them, check out our 50 Best Recipes for Fall.

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