When flu season comes around, you’ll want to make sure you’re eating well to keep your immune system strong. Eating certain foods, especially those that contain zinc, can help protect against the cold and flu.
Most usually think to load up on vitamin C when it comes to beating a sickness, so it might come as a surprise that you might be better off focusing on zinc. Studies have shown that zinc is most effective in shortening the length of a cold when taken on the first day of symptoms. “This is due to the mineral’s ability to help prevent the bacteria or virus from replicating in the body,” says Rebecca Lewis, MS, RD. “Zinc is essential for the body to make DNA in order to promote tissue growth and repair, and it helps wounds heal faster and ensures the immune system works properly.”
To make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrient in your diet, be sure to incorporate some of these foods high in zinc.
Sure, they’re considered an aphrodisiac (along with these other 18 foods). But what better way to fight off sickness than to indulge in some seafood? “One large oyster has about one mg of zinc, about 10 percent the daily value,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. “Most people slurp down a few oysters at a time, which provides a heaping serving of the mineral. I would suggest eating them raw as a nice appetizer.”
While it’s been on the bad list for years, with three easy tips you can eat beef healthfully. A three-ounce serving of beef has about seven mg of zinc. “That’s almost 100 percent of the daily value for women and a little less for men,” says Rizzo. “Try using it in a stir-fry, a veggie soup or paired with a vegetable side.”
“An 8-ounce container of plain low-fat yogurt has about two mg of the mineral, or close to 20 percent the daily value,” says Rizzo. “Yogurt is great in a smoothie, topped with granola, or just eaten plain.” Here are some savory ways to cook with yogurt.
Spruce up your sandwiches with some Swiss cheese, or pair it with some veggie sticks for an extra boost of nutrients. “One ounce of Swiss cheese has 1.2 mg—or about 8 percent your daily value,” says Rizzo. You’re probably dying to know what your favorite cheese says about your personality, right?
They’re a smart choice, since they’re among the top 25 brain-boosting foods. “Roasted garbanzo beans are a totally delicious and portable way to get a healthy dose of zinc, folate, and manganese,” says Keri Glassman, RD. A 1⁄2 cup of the legume contains 2.8 mg of the mineral.
“A 1/2 cup of these dark red beans will not only serve up 0.9 mg of zinc—or 6 percent of your daily value—but they are also loaded with antioxidants and iron,” says Rizzo. “You can substitute them in any recipe that calls for pinto beans, and they are fantastic in chili.” Here are some more health benefits of beans.
Dark chicken meat
There’s a reason we always want chicken soup when we’re sick: A four-ounce serving of dark meat chicken will give you 3.2 mg of zinc. “For the best bang for your buck, buy a whole pasture-raised chicken rather than individual pieces,” says Maria Zamarripa, MS, RD, CLT. “Mixing both light and dark meat on a whole chicken provides a more complete nutrition profile with added zinc.”
Avoid a zinc deficiency by filling up on some pork. Like beef and chicken, pork is also a good source of the nutrient: Just three ounces cooked contains 1.8mg of the mineral. Need a recipe? Try this jerk pork with grilled pineapple recipe.
Yes, it is one of the five healthiest nuts you can eat. A small handful of cashews (around one ounce) or one tablespoon of nut butter contains 1.6 mg of zinc. “Mix up your nut game by adding cashews for a boost of zinc to ward off the common cold,” says Zamarripa. “For an easy and cost-effective option, make your own homemade cashew butter by blending roasted, unsalted cashews in a blender until smooth.Pair one to two tablespoons of homemade cashew butter with a banana, apple slices, or whole wheat toast for a nutritionally complete snack.”
“Quinoa is a gluten-free ancient grain that’s high in zinc and protein and its mild flavor goes well with pretty much anything,” says Glassman. “You can basically throw any combination of vegetables, beans, cheese, or diced meats in it and end up with a balanced, tasty meal.” A 3/4 cup serving of quinoa has about 2 mg of the nutrient. Check out these 15 creative recipes featuring quinoa.
Time to eat those grains for breakfast, since 1/2 cup of oatmeal provides 1.6 mg of the mineral. “Spice up plain oatmeal by sprinkling with cinnamon, and an antioxidant-rich fruit of your choice, such as berries,” says Zamarippa. “To enhance the zinc profile even more, add a small handful of sliced almonds to your oatmeal for an easy, protein-packed breakfast.” Check out these 10 tasty oatmeal ideas.