These days, we’re all trying to stay healthy and protect ourselves from viruses. One extra step we can take is to include foods in our daily diet that may help our bodies fight off such illnesses. All five of these foods have proven antiviral properties that are backed by science. Even better, they fit perfectly into your healthy eating plan—all of them are Free Foods on Nutrisystem, meaning that you can enjoy as much of them as you’d like without hindering progress to your weight loss goal. You’ll also notice that these ingredients are a delicious part of many great summer recipes.
Add these five antiviral foods to your shopping list for a healthy summer:
Research says: The pungent herb has long been used in folk medicine and recent research has substantiated its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Scientists have also conducted laboratory studies on the impact of its active ingredient, allicin, on viruses. “A single trial suggested that garlic may prevent occurrences of the common cold, but more studies are needed to validate this finding,” according to a report, published in Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine.
Try this: You get a mouth full of zesty flavor and tender, juicy chicken with Boneless Garlic Parmesan Chicken Bites. They’re easy to whip up in minutes in an air fryer—you won’t even break a sweat as you’re making them. Plus, they’re low in saturated fats and calories so you can enjoy them along with the rest of the family.
Research says: Like garlic, ginger has an extensive history as a traditional treatment for many conditions. Scientists studied ginger’s effects on human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) and published their findings in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. They observed that fresh ginger extract helps prevent virus cells from attaching to the walls of the respiratory system, reducing the risk that the virus can spread through the human body. “Fresh, but not dried, ginger is effective against HRSV-induced plaque formation on airway epithelium by blocking viral attachment and internalization,” says researchers.
Try this: First, check out our video that shows you how easy it is to peel these knobby roots before using them. Then treat yourself to an Orange Carrot Ginger Smoothie, a tasty and refreshing summer beverage with fresh flavors that are naturally sweet and satisfying.
Research says: Curcumin is the compound that gives turmeric its bright yellow color. It has also been shown to provide a variety of health benefits. A survey of research on curcumin’s antiviral properties found, “curcumin as a plant derivative has a wide range of antiviral activity against different viruses,” says a report, published in Biomedical Research International. “The extensive antiviral effects of curcumin against different viral pathogens nominate this compound as an antiviral drug candidate to develop new antivirals from natural resources against sensitive viruses,” says the researchers. However, they do explain that more research is needed on the use of this compound or its derivatives on viruses.
Try this: Spicy White Bean Hummus is a creamy and flavorful dip for summer’s most popular vegetables, cucumbers and bell peppers. This simple hummus is easily made in a blender or food processor. It fills you up with the fiber-rich beans while providing you with the one-two punch of turmeric and garlic.
4. Green Tea
Research says: The leaves used to make green tea contain catechins (pronounced “cat-uh-kins”), micronutrients found in plants that provide health benefits, says Harvard Health. Both laboratory and clinical (real patient) studies have demonstrated that catechins may inhibit influenza infection, according to a report, published in Current Medicinal Chemistry.
Try this: For a quick but filling breakfast or refreshing snack on a hot afternoon, whip up a Blueberry Green Tea Smoothie. Both the fruit and tea are loaded with antioxidants, important nutrients shown to boost the immune system.
5. Star Anise
Research says: You may have heard about the antiviral drug oseltamivir, commonly sold as Tamiflu. The base compound for this medication is called shikimic acid. According to Biotechnology Advances, shikimic acid is abundant in star anise, a spice that has a licorice-like scent. Shikimic acid is said to be effective as a “preventive medicine for the outbreak of swine or Avian flu,” says research, published in Phytocompounds As Lead Compounds for New Drug Discovery. They explain, “oseltamivir or Tamiflu derived from shikimic acid pathway have been found to be potent influenza viral neuraminidase inhibitors against most influenza strains.”
Try this: Ground star anise adds a sweet and zingy note to grilled chicken, stir fries and rice dishes. You can also try sprinkling the spice on fresh peaches and other summer fruit before grilling them for a flavorful snack or dessert. Check out these 10 fresh fruits that are perfect for grilling! >
*If you are experiencing any symptoms or have any health-related questions pertaining to a virus, be sure to consult with your doctor and follow the CDC guidelines.