By Paige Green, Hy-Vee Dietitian on Monday, April 6, 2020

Try these 'super foods' to avoid getting sick

Does the word "superfood" conjure little images of blueberries in capes fighting off dietary evils with you?

sick person

Of course there are particular foods that are helpful in warding off sickness, but keep in mind that one single food item won’t prevent you from coming down with a cold or the flu. What’s key is a well-balanced diet – one that’s full of foods that include a variety of vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune system.

So grab your hand-sanitizer, and find out which foods to stock up on when you head to the grocery store:

Vitamin C

When you get your first sniffle or cough – vitamin C comes to mind, right? Not a bad idea. Not only does vitamin C repair tissues across the entire body, it fights off free radicals (the bad guys) from damaging our cells. It’s important to note that vitamin C will not prevent an illness, but evidence suggests it lessens the severity and duration of the common cold. Vitamin C sources extend well past orange juice, so be sure to include other food sources, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, too.

RECIPE: Spiralized Sweet Potato Enchilada Skillet    

Sunflower Seeds and Almonds

Vitamin E also plays a key role in immunity, too. This fat-soluble vitamin boosts the activity of immune cells to support the body’s ability to fight off invading bacteria or viruses. An ounce of sunflower seeds or a 1/4-cup of almonds provides you with half your daily recommended target for vitamin E. Pair these with fresh fruit or blend them into a smoothie, with spinach (another high vitamin E favorite) to fight off germs.



To prevent catching a bug, it’s important to grow healthy bugs in your gut. Probiotics have been a buzzword in the health world for some time now, and it’s for good reason. Seventy percent of our immune system lives in our digestive system, therefore, we need to make sure we feed it right. Foods rich in probiotics include kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut. If these food examples don’t sound appealing, you can. choose to take a supplement. Look for a probiotic with at least 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units).

RELATED: Healthy at-home lunch ideas for kids


Water is always a good idea – ill or not. Yet, oftentimes, we reach for juice or soda to nurse us back to health. Keep in mind, knocking back these sweetened beverages when sick will only lead to a blood sugar crash (making you feel worse). Every cell in our body needs water to function properly and to transport nutrients, so staying hydrated is essential in fighting off sickness. As an extra bonus, the base of soups is made of mostly water, so it’s no surprise that mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup made us feel better growing up. Warm up a bowl, and take in the flavors, as well as the heat as the steam can help us feel less congested. 

TIPS: 5 products to get your kids to drink more water


Lean animal sources and plant-based protein products can give your immune system a much needed boost. Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of cells. Protein helps to regulate existing cells, while generating new ones. Plant-based options, such as nuts and seeds also provide antioxidants, while meat, seafood, and legumes provide us with a good source of zinc – the mineral that aids in maintaining immune cells and heals wounds.

For more immunity boosting foods or recipe ideas, reach out to your local Hy-Vee dietitian. 


Paige Green received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management at the University of Northern Iowa in 2012. She pursued her passion for nutrition at Iowa State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics during the spring of 2015. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Paige truly sets out to educate individuals on finding a healthy balance in life and her passion for people and nutrition inspires clients of all ages. You can find Paige at the Ames Hy-Vee on Lincoln Way.