Honey’s anti-inflammatory properties provide your immune system with extra support. Nina Timofeyeva / Daily Nexus

With stress levels rising during the start of winter quarter and the weather starting to turn colder, catching a cold may be imminent. Fortunately, we can turn to certain foods to help combat illness and strengthen immune systems.

Vitamin C is a popular flu-fighting supplement. This vitamin’s function is to aid in the production of collagen, a protein that forms connective tissue, supporting the body’s nervous, bone, immune and blood systems. It also stimulates the activity of white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infections in the body. Early on, even prior to the official discovery of vitamin C, some nutritionists found that citrus fruit rich in vitamin C could prevent people from getting ill with scurvy, an extremely common and lethal disease for sailors between the 1500s and 1800s. However, tests studying the effects of vitamin C supplementation have found that this element does not have a huge influence on preventing the flu and colds. But, it was found to shorten the duration of sickness and decrease the intensity of symptoms. So, overall, even though vitamin C might not be a true preventative of the flu and colds, it is still vital to one’s overall health, and ensuring that it is present in your diet can have many beneficial outcomes such as helping speed up the recovery process from an illness.

Often it is said that vitamin C exists in abundance in citrus fruit, and many people typically associate vitamin C with sour-tasting fruits. Interestingly enough though, strawberries and bell peppers actually contain more vitamin C than oranges!

Try this Strawberry Citrus Salad to bring back some brightness during the darker evenings and make it feel like summer again while getting your daily dose of vitamin C.

Another crucial component of a healthy immune system is vitamin D. Though research regarding the supplementation of vitamin D on the frequency and intensity of respiratory infections did not find major effects of prevention or remediation in the general population, it was concluded that those with a vitamin D deficiency did benefit from supplementation in decreasing the flu and colds. Vitamin D deficiency becomes increasingly common during the winter months as less sunlight is available, which is the key mechanism to the body’s production of this vitamin. Once again, ensuring that your body produces and receives enough vitamin D will help maintain a strong immune system.

Naturally consumed vitamin D can be absorbed from foods such as mushrooms, fatty fish and eggs. Additionally, many milks and juices are now supplemented with vitamin D, so consider switching out your regular drink with a fortified one during the cold and flu season.

This Baked Fish With Mushrooms and Ginger contains not only Vitamin D but also ginger — another incredible food known to prevent sickness. Ginger has antiviral and antibacterial properties, which can stop unwanted infections from entering and spreading in the body. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, which can help support an immune system that may be battling against already present infections.

Your green tea or matcha-drinking habit can also boost immunity. Green tea not only makes for a delicious drink but can also help your body’s immune system. Containing catechin, a powerful antioxidant, green tea has been found to prevent and aid in the remediation of influenza. Green tea can also assist the body in getting rid of cellular debris and bacteria. If you find that you have already caught a cold, drinking green tea (especially with honey) can soothe a sore throat, help the immune system fight against an infection and ensure that you’re staying hydrated.

This Bigelow Green Tea “COLD BUSTING” Recipe is sure to have you feeling cozy during the colder days and will give your immune system everything it could possibly wish for. Combining green tea with honey, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric, this recipe gives an even greater boost to the already potent tea. Honey is known to possess antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, as well as acts as an anti-inflammatory, providing great support to the immune system. Turmeric is an incredible anti-inflammatory antioxidant that can ease symptoms that come with the flu and colds. Cinnamon is yet another antioxidant and has been said to help clear airways during illness. Try this fragrant and health-boosting recipe in the mornings to start your day off strong.

Providing your body with the necessary nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy immune system is key to staving off the flu and colds. This quarter, power through by nourishing yourself with healthy and tasty recipes incorporating nutrient-dense foods, such as the ones listed in this article. Take care of your body and mind while enjoying the beautiful produce California has to offer!

A version of this article appeared on p. 7 of the January 25, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.