Nutrition In yoU: Functional foods to combat colds and flu

In addition to being a Dietetic Intern, graduate student, and research assistant, I am also the mother of a 2-year old, a wife to a business owner, and a dog mom to a sheltie. I commute over an hour each way to and from NIU. I also still work (on occasion) and perform at theaters in Chicago and the suburbs. This life is not easy. Why am I sharing all of this with you? It is to put into perspective why I truly cannot get sick. I am going to guess even if you don’t juggle quite as much, you also cannot get sick and we’re definitely getting into cold season. I will not attest to being the “healthiest” person around as I do enjoy cheesecake on occasion and my workout routine is not what it used to be. But, I do what I can to fight off illnesses by making my foods work for me. Since I started studying nutrition, I realized the benefits of a balanced diet extend beyond my energy levels and into my immune system. I actively try to stay healthy by consuming a lot of functional foods. I made a video about it.

What is a functional food? A functional food is a food that contributes health benefits in addition to energy. These are foods that include vitamins, minerals, or probiotics which may help you get through colds and the flu quicker.

Feeling tired, worn down, or like you might have caught the cold your toddler sneezed into your mouth this past weekend? Give yourself a boost through your food! Eat a balanced diet including functional foods that multitask for you, like fruits and vegetables, kombucha, kefir, dark chocolate, and leafy greens. Functional foods not only provide you the energy you need to make it through that next soccer practice and board meeting, but also help boost your immune system, making the little runny nose that just got wiped on your sleeve, less of a hazard to your health.

For more information, click here.

If you’re looking for an easy way to pack in a lot of functional foods into one meal, try a smoothie. You’ll get a dose of immune boosting vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium, brain boosting omega 3s, and gut beneficial probiotics all at once. I like to measure the ingredients out the night before and then keep them portioned in my refrigerator or freezer. Then in the morning, I toss them in the blender and go. One of my favorites is what I call the “PB&J (Hold the J)” smoothie. Simply blend:

1/2 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries (can also use strawberries or raspberries)

1 frozen banana

1 tablespoon of flaxseed

1 tablespoon of peanut butter (or any kind of nut butter)

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup of plain, Greek yogurt


For a vegan option blend:

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 frozen banana

1 tablespoon of flaxseed

1 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

— Megan Farris

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