Everyone should be eating these four foods during flu season, according to dietitians

CDC reports 19 million Americans have the flu this season... and February is typically the worst month

MADISON, Wis. — Flu season is here, and the CDC warns it’s on its way to becoming the worst in decades. So far this year, 19 million people have come down with the flu. The CDC now warns Wisconsin could be in for a “double-barreled” flu season: Two strains are circulating this year, so you could get the flu twice.

While there is no cure for the flu, food is one of the best ways to fight back.

When you’re sick, the last thing you might feel like doing is eating. While nutritionists agree it’s okay to eat a little less, they say food is what gives your body the energy and nutrients it needs to function and fight. They specifically recommend the following foods:

1. Try kiwis and peppers.

When it comes to the anti-oxidant vitamin C, everybody hears about oranges, but kiwis are a very good source of it. One fruit has about 64 milligrams, which nearly fulfills the daily requirement of the immunity-boosting vitamin for adults. “There are a lot of other ways to get it, like bell peppers,” said Tami Schiltz, registered dietitian. Schiltz recommends throwing peppers into dishes, like salad, at night. Guava is also packed with vitamin C.

2. Eat your greens.

Another flu-fighting nutrient is vitamin E, and leafy greens are an easy way to amp up your intake of the anti-oxidant. One cup of cooked spinach has 3.7 milligrams of vitamin E, which is about 25% of the recommended daily requirement.

3. Seeds are still in season.

Zinc is another mineral that helps fight infection heals wounds. Found in things like pumpkin seeds, zinc also contains a hefty dose of vitamin E. “You can throw that on top of a salad, on top of your oatmeal, or on granola,” said Schiltz. Pumpkin seeds have one of the highest concentrations of zinc for their size, at about 2 milligrams of the mineral per ounce.

4. Yogurt is good any time of day.

The best way to boost your immune system is through your gut. The breakfast favorite and other probiotic-rich foods promote intestinal health and stimulate the mucosal immune system in your gut. That means it acts as a barrier between harmful pathogens and the body. Nutritionists recommend yogurt with more strains of probiotics, noted on the label, and suggest you avoid the sugary varieties.

BONUS: Hydration, hydration, hydration!

Regularly drinking water is vital, even in the dead of winter. It helps you maintain and improve your immune system and fuels your metabolism. “Really focus on hydration and at some points if you need a little bit of electrolytes or something like bone broth, which is really soothing on your gut,” said Schiltz. “Just really ease back into digestion. Try to limit processed foods. Keep it really simple until you can get back up to speed.”

Foods to avoid:

Nutritionists say to avoid sugar, and treat it like fuel for bad health. They say excessive sugar intake can increase inflammation, and reduce the body’s ability to fight off viruses like influenza. Sugar is found naturally in many fruits. Nutritionists say the problem escalates with added sugar, found in candy and junk food.

Also, skip dairy. That can aggravate your stuffed up nose even more and can make it hard to breathe. Alcohol and caffeine also hurt your flu recovery, and make the muscle aches you’re already feeling even worse. Instead, eat foods containing magnesium or calcium to ease your soreness.