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6 Antiviral Foods You Should Be Eating

"Flu Activity Worsens Nationwide, CDC Says"

According to the January 5 report from ABC News “The 2014-15 flu season continues to be especially bad in the United States, with 43 states now reporting either high or widespread flu activity, according to the latest flu surveillance report… The flu season started early this year, Fauci said, and although it usually tapers off a bit around the holidays, when people stay home from the office, that didn't happen this year…The Southern states and the Midwest have been hit hardest so far.” 1

Bad news for us!  But what are we supposed to do about it? 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises we get our flu shots.  Other preventative measures recommended by the CDC are “staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.”  Sometimes easier said than done!

Did you know that what you eat can help protect you from getting sick?  Of course, just having a healthy diet and lifestyle will help you with this.  If you are following my 5 Key Elements to Maintaining Healthy Weight and Energy Levels you are already probably staying healthy and are less likely to get sick.  But did you know that there are several foods that have antiviral properties and can help fight off viruses for the common cold and flu?  I’m not saying that this will guarantee you won’t get sick, but it will help your body fight off infection and disease so you have a better chance of staying healthy this winter.

6 Antiviral Foods You Should Be Eating

1. Mushrooms

According to Dr. Josesph Mercola in his article “Eat Mushrooms During Winter to Radically Reduce Your Risk of Cold and Flu,” mushrooms contain potent immunosupportive agents that are able to kill viruses, bacteria and even yeast.  They can destroy cancer cells and help regenerate nerves.

Shitake mushrooms in particular have strong antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.  Reishi mushrooms, used medicinally in Asia for centuries, can now be found in health food stores in the States.  They reportedly have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties as well.  As with most foods, eating a variety of mushrooms is key because different species provide different health benefits.

2. Coconut oil

The presence of lauric acid in coconut oil provides antiviral protection to the body.  Some studies have shown that this acid prevents the virus from reaching maturity (Hornung et al 1994).  Other studies indicate that coconut oil is involved in enhancing the immune system in general.  Coconut oil, with its medium chain fatty acids is an important component of a healthy diet.  It has a relatively high smoke point so it is good for cooking.  It can also be used in baking and eaten as a butter substitute.  In addition, it makes a wonderful natural moisturizer for the skin.  If you don’t like the smell or taste of coconut oil, no problem.  You can buy a refined version which has little to no odor or taste.  Be sure to always buy organic though.

3. Fermented foods

This is actually a category of foods! Lacto-fermented foods are a wonderful way to protect your gut from viral invasion.  Lacto-fermentation helps preserve foods and, in the process, produces beneficial enzymes, vitamins and beneficial probiotics.  These help us absorb the nutrients in our food better and keep us healthy by balancing the microflora in our gut.  A healthy microflora is a hostile environment for invading microbes that would otherwise make us sick.

You can incorporate fermented foods in your diet by eating sauerkraut, pickles, or fermented vegetables.  Sauerkraut is simple to make and tastes much better than store bought.  (Be careful about buying shelf stable sauerkraut and pickles in jars.  Theseare heated and the live beneficial probiotics have been killed.  Instead, look for live cultures in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.)

You can also drink your probiotics in the form of water kefir and kombucha.  They are easy to make if you have a starter culture.  You can order them at Cultures for Health.  

4. Garlic

Garlic has long been known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties (as well as its strong odor!).  It is this strong odor, from a compound known as allicin, that gives garlic its strongest antiviral fighting power.  Laboratory tests have shown garlic extracts are able to kill viruses of the common cold, various flu strains and herpes simplex types I and II, but clinical trials have yet to be conducted

On his website, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests cutting a garlic clove into chunks and swallowing it whole like a pill to ward off infection! He also suggests chewing some fresh parsley following this to minimize the odor.  

5. Green Tea

Green tea (Camellia sinensis) has been used medicinally in China for over 4000 years and recent study supports its many health benefits.  Its antiviral properties can be attributed to the group of flavonoids called catechins that appear to inhibit viral infections by binding to the influenza virus, preventing it from entering our cells. So far, no clinical studies have been carried out to determine if green tea might be an effective treatment for influenza, but why not enjoy a soothing hot cup of tea while they are working on it.  It certainly can’t hurt!

Pau d'Arco is another tea that has demonstrated virus killing and immune boosting abilities.  It comes from the bark of a tree from the rainforests of South America.  Reportedly, its antiviral action is enhanced when combined with another tea, yerbamate.  I enjoy this tea everyday mixed with green tea - double antiviral support!

6. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, primarily due to the presence of malic and acetic acids.   Earth Clinic  recommends drinking this Organic Apple Cider Vinegar tonic to remedy a lingering virus: 2 tsp. of vinegar in a glass of water, honey optional. (BTW, they also recommend coconut oil!)

There are many more foods that contain antiviral activity.  If you are looking to fortify your body with herbal supplements astragalus is an excellent one to try.  The essential oil of oregano is another way to prevent remove viruses from your environment before they are able to enter your body.

I would love to hear from you with any of your additions!  

I hope this helps you and your family stay healthy and happy during this flu season.  Stay warm and eat healthy!

Yours in Health,



Photo credit:  James Vaughan at Flickr
Citations:  1. Hornung B, Amtmann E, Sauer G. Lauric acid inhibits the maturation of vesicular stomatitis virus. Journal of General Virology 1994;75:353-361.


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