The Top 3 Foods You Need to Avoid This Flu Season

Written by Tim Skwiat

Flu Season

It seems like no matter how diligent we are to avoid contact with germs, at some point or another, someone in the family will bring home something dreadful. Cold. Flu. Upper respiratory gunk. Stuffy nose. Body aches. Fever. And if you’re like me, you want to stop the germs before they have any chance to take hold! (As a dad, no matter how sick I am, I know I’m never truly “off duty.”)

Of course, the most common way viruses and all their nasty symptoms are spread is through hand-to-hand or hand-to-face contact. That is, you touch the same surface that someone who is carrying this virus also touched, brush your hair off your face, and bam! You’ve been exposed! Sure, it’s a good idea to wash your hands as much as you can and even keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on your person, but sadly, you can’t wash other people’s dirty paws.

Fortunately, just because you have been exposed to a virus doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll “catch” it. In fact, when your immune system is running at full-throttle, it can often fend off those viruses without even a hint of a symptom. And there are foods you can enjoy every day that can help your immune system function fully (think: delicious vegetables, quality proteins, and sweet low-sugar fruits).

Other foods, however, can diminish how well your immune system functions, leaving you at greater risk of catching whatever the guy who’s sneezing and coughing at the other end of the aisle has.

So, the real question is: what foods should you avoid that may impair your immune system?

3 Foods to Avoid This Flu Season

Sugar and Flu Season

1. Sugar
You knew sugar was going to be on this list, didn’t you? In fact, it’s the #1 food you should avoid because of its ability to devastate your immune system’s ability to function.

Controlling your sugar intake is key to optimizing your immune system because sugar—especially in highly processed forms like high-fructose corn syrup—actually feeds the “bad” bacteria in your gut.

Editor’s Note: 17 White Foods For a Flat Stomach

This is important because your gut houses 80% of your immune system, and your immune system function depends largely on an optimal ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria. Anything that decreases this ratio (i.e., increasing “bad” bacteria) will compromise your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to catching the cold and flu. Sugar also provides zero, nada, nil nutrition.

So, it’s really important to limit your overall sugar intake to keep your immune system running at its peak. Low-sugar fruits, like strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, and pineapple can be included, of course, but don’t overdo it—especially during cold and flu season.

refined grains and flu season

2. Refined Grains
Refined grains and carbohydrates can act similarly to refined sugars because of the lack of nutrients and fiber. The digestive system does a great job of breaking down these simple carbs. This leads to spikes and drops in blood sugar and insulin levels. So it’s almost equivalent to eating sugar.

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Instead, focus on quality, whole, minimally processed grains to optimize your immune system because the healthier you are, the stronger your immune system. Try some of the delicious new options available, like quinoa, amaranth, or buckwheat to add additional nutrition and variety to your carb intake.

Trans fat and flu season

3. Trans Fats
Other foods to avoid include trans fats and vegetable oils (i.e., soybean oil) that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. These fats trigger inflammatory responses, which are under the control of your immune system.

If your body’s immune system is busy dealing with inflammatory fats, you can bet you’re less likely to fend off the cold or flu virus effectively.

Trans fats are found in fried foods, baked goods, and many pre-packaged processed foods. You’d be well advised to avoid these at all costs because of the many ravaging effects on your health.

Now you know why a strong immune system starts with a healthy nutrition plan. So with just a bit of planning and experimentation, you can easily avoid the top three damaging foods this flu season. You’ll be giving yourself and your family tools they need to help fight off the sniffles, body aches, and all the other nasty symptoms of the cold and flu before they start.

Bonus Flu Diet Tip:

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  • Anonymous

    Greetings. We are very greatful for the time you take out of your busy schedule to enlighten us and help us live healhier lives. Your articles are great and very informative not to mention educational. God bless you. Im sharing with everyone. Thanks a lot!!!

    • Cristina

      Greetings, Anonymous. Thank you for your feedback on how you have found our articles to be both informative and educational. It speaks volumes that you are also sharing them with your friends and family.

      We appreciate that you have taken the time to check out our blog, and we encourage you to check in regularly. If there is anything you would like to learn more about, please let us know.

  • Cristina

    Hi Frankie. Thank you for the 5 star rating. We appreciate that you have joined us here, and provided such positive feedback.

    We hope you will continue to find value in the content we provide, and we look forward to your contributions.

  • Cristina

    Welcome, carl inWis. Kudos to you for taking such great care of your health and wellness over the years. It really is commendable that you are able to prepare most of your meals from scratch, as this is the only way to really know what you are eating.

    When I am looking for healthy recipes, I have certain criteria that I look for before I determine if it will make it to my dinner table.

    * Focuses predominantly on one-ingredient foods (e.g., any
    meat, veggie, nut, seed, oil, bean, or fruit whose only ingredient is

    * Contains lean, complete proteins (except for veggie/side dishes)
    * Minimally processed, whole foods
    * Low in sugar and processed carbohydrates (e.g.., “white” and packaged carbs)
    * Prioritizes good, healthy fats over bad ones
    * Emphasizes nutrient density while controlling calorie density
    * Includes fresh, all-natural ingredients
    * No artificial ingredients, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives
    Not only can the foods we eat have an effect on our moods, but our moods often times will dictate what foods we crave.

    According to Susan McQuillan, a registered dietitian and contributing
    editor for Psychology Today, “when the brain needs serotonin, some
    people self-medicate with starchy carbohydrates such as crackers, bread,
    and cake, because these carbs provide the brain with the raw materials
    it needs to synthesize and release serotonin.”

    Other chemicals in your brain, and throughout your body, influence when
    you eat, the types of foods you eat, how much you eat, and whether
    you’re even hungry, and they all ultimately affect your mood.

    It really is fascinating to discover just how critical our food choices
    are, and how they can not only contribute to our health, body
    composition, and performance, but ultimately dictate how emotionally and
    mentally well our being is.

    Your efforts to be mindful of good nutrition have definitely helped you to have the best quality of life possible, carl inWis. Keep up the awesome work!

  • abimanu mathoorasing

    My appreciation of your excellent advice to avoid flu; I enjoy strawberry, cherries and pineapples, but since it has sugar, I shall indulge in small quantities


    • Hi abimanu,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your feedback. We’re very glad to hear that you found this article to be handy. There’s no question that the flu is nasty and spreading like wildfire this year, so doing everything you can to bolster your defense and mitigate your risk is a good idea. A few other good suggestions (from Professor Neil Walsh) include:

      – Avoiding sick people
      – Ensure good hygiene
      – Avoid self-inoculation (by touching your eyes, nose, and mouth)
      – Monitor/manage all forms of stress
      – Aim for > 7 hours of sleep each night
      – Avoid chronic low-energy availability (e.g., low-calorie dieting)
      – Eat a well-balanced diet

      This last part ties into your comment about fruit. While you’re right that fruit does contain some sugar, I think it’s important to point out that fruit packages a LOT more as well, including immune-supporting vitamins and minerals. Perhaps more importantly, fruit is packed with phytonutrients, which may be the true “superpowers” of plant-based foods, that can help bolster the body’s defenses. And fruit like cherries and pineapples are well-known to support a healthy inflammatory response.

      By all means, these are healthful foods to maintain in your arsenal, and there’s no question that the “good” outweighs the “bad”. On the other hand, processed foods that contain added refined sugar really offer no such “bang for the buck” so to speak, and that’s the point that I was attempting to make in this article.

      Hope this helps, abimanu, and most importantly, I hope you stay healthy!

      • abimanu mathoorasing

        Very helpful, and I intend to follow your advice so that flu would spare me as a pariah