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Ready for Winter? Take These 6 Vitamins This Flu Season

Prepare for cold and flu season with these immune-boosting vitamins and nutrients.

Young woman feeling sick in bed
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Unfortunately, it's here again -- flu season. As our chances of getting sick increase, we hope that our immune systems are ready to put up a good fight. 

In addition to drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, you can also boost your immune system with vitamins this flu season. 

When is flu season 2022?

Health professionals have predicted that this 2022 flu season may start earlier this year. This means that as soon as October, your likelihood of coming down with influenza may increase. The peak of flu season is usually around Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the season ending around March.  

If you want an immune-system booster -- we have you covered. Vitamins and nutrients can help, and we've rounded up the top picks.

Immune-boosting vitamins and nutrients

Set of pills on white background
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Generally speaking, eating a varied diet of whole foods with plenty of produce should help to keep you healthy by giving your body the nutrients it needs. If you want to take things a step further, you can find ways to incorporate more of the best vitamins for flu season into your life. 

As far as immune-boosting vitamins and nutrients go, some of the front-runners include:

Vitamin C

No surprise here: Vitamin C can help to boost your immune system. When you're low on it, you have a heightened risk for illnesses and infections

Women should aim to get about 75 milligrams a day, while men should get roughly 90 mg of this vitamin. That's fairly easy since you can find it in:

  • Citrus
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Bell pepper
  • Spinach
  • Kale

Vitamin B6

Your body uses this vitamin to make red and white blood cells, which supports your ability to fend off illness. If you're looking for the best vitamins for flu season, you should definitely add this one to your list

You can get it from:

  • Poultry
  • Fish like tuna and salmon
  • Bananas
  • Chickpeas

Some cereals are also fortified with B6, so keep an eye out on your next grocery shop.

Vitamin E

Studies show that vitamin E can enhance your immune system and shrink your risk of infection, making it a power player during flu season 2022 and beyond. You can get this vitamin from:

  • Certain plant oils, including sunflower, soybean and safflower oil
  • Dark, leafy greens like spinach or collard greens
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin 
  • Avocado

Vitamin D

This is another one of those immune system-booster vitamins that doesn't get much praise but makes a big difference. Too little vitamin D heightens your risk for infection, while getting enough of it helps your immune system function its best. 

The trouble is that some sources of vitamin D aren't widely considered palatable (think: beef liver, cod liver oil, sardines). You can get it naturally through more appetizing choices like salmon and tuna, but vitamin D is right up there toward the top of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's nutrient deficiency report (PDF). 

If you're looking for a way to get more of this vitamin without turning to supplements, keep an eye out at the grocery store. You can find milk and juices fortified with vitamin D. 

Polyphenols

Don't stop your search for the best vitamins for flu season at vitamins alone. Some nutrients can go a long way toward keeping you healthy. 

Take polyphenols as an example. These compounds come from plants and help to regulate your immune system, basically making it easier for your body to take the right steps to fight infection. 

Fortunately, most fruits and veggies contain polyphenols. A diet full of produce should give your body plenty of these nutrients. 

Beta-carotene

Another plant-based powerhouse for flu season 2022, beta-carotene gives red and orange plants their hue. It also gives your immune system a leg up. 

To get more of it into your diet, look for brightly colored produce like sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and mangos. 

Can you take vitamins during the flu? 

Despite all your efforts, you still came down ill. Now that you're sick, can you take vitamins to shorten a cold or the flu? Absolutely. 

You should keep taking plenty of the vitamins listed above, which are the best ones for flu season, but don't stop there. In fact, some of the nutrients you might have expected to see on the previous list actually work best once you're already ill. Let's take a look. 

What vitamins are best when sick?

When you're sick, it's extra important to eat a healthy, well-rounded diet. This helps to give your body the nutrients it needs to fight your illness. 

Beyond that, there are two nutrients that can help you bounce back faster:

  • Zinc: Your body needs this nutrient regularly, but it can be particularly helpful once you're already fighting an infection. You can find zinc lozenges to deliver an added boost to get back to health faster. 
  • Vitamin C: Some of the best vitamins for flu season work to prevent illness but can pull double duty by fighting active infections, too. Vitamin C is a prime example. While most people need 100 mg or less of vitamin C each day when they're healthy, a big dose of vitamin C could help to shorten the duration of your illness. Like zinc, you might want to find a supplement to add more in when you're ill. Just make sure you stay shy of 2,000 mg a day or you could face some unwelcome side effects

Should you take vitamins this flu season?

Hand holding vitamin C supplements
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That depends. How do you typically eat? If you're already eating a nutritious, whole food-based diet with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, you might already be getting most of the nutrients on this list. If your diet isn't what medical experts would classify as well-balanced , though, adding vitamins to your daily routine can help you get through flu season 2022 with less risk of getting sick. 

Specifically, you might want to explore taking vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin D and zinc. According to the 2005 to 2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, in all adults 19 years and older, 46% of adults aren't getting enough vitamin C, 95% aren't getting enough vitamin D, 84% aren't getting vitamin E and 15% for zinc. Talk to your doctor. They can help you explore possible nutrient deficiencies through diagnostics like a blood test. Armed with that information, you'll be better able to make choices to help yourself stay healthy, whether that's modifying your diet, taking vitamins or both.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.