If you’ve only come across barley as an ingredient in a soup, you might not be familiar with its slew of health benefits, particularly for your immune system. “Barley is a good source of fiber and selenium, which appears to have a powerful effect on the immune system due to its antioxidant properties,” Miller says. He recommends incorporating barley into just about every savory meal you consume. “Add it into salads with fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and fresh herbs (barley with mushrooms, spinach, cannellini beans, and thyme),” he says. “It can also be used to make risottos and pilafs.” If you’re in the mood for a soup, try chicken barley, mushroom barley, or vegetable barley soup. You can also have it for breakfast; simply cook and top with fresh fruit like apples, nuts or seeds such as chopped walnuts, and a spice if desired, such as cinnamon, Miller adds.
When lunch or dinner time calls and you’re dealing with even the slightest hint of a sickness, fill your plate with a nutrient-dense protein like salmon or tuna. One study, published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, found that a diet containing DHA-rich fish oil, found in fatty fish, boosted the activity of a white blood cell called B-cells, an important part of the body’s immune system response. If you’re not big into seafood, or flaky fish like salmon or tuna, opt for fish oil supplements instead; you’ll still get the key benefits and plus high levels of heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats that help keep your immune system working its best. Make sure you avoid these everyday mistakes that raise your risk of catching a cold.
Foods with added vitamin C
When you’re feeling sick, you may not always be in the mood to prepare food—but try and fight the temptation to order takeout. Instead reach for vitamin C-containing foods that require relatively little-to-no prep work. “Vitamin C is a good nutrient for helping to support your body’s immune system and just so happens to be added to many foods—you’ll sometimes see it on the ingredient list as ascorbic acid, sometimes as a preservative,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “One of my favorite packaged foods that contains vitamin C it is KIND’s Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants bar, with 20 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.”