Top 10 Antiviral Foods to Fight the Flu

Every dietary decision you make can either help or harm your immune system. Each food we consume is enriched with vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins that can either boost or hinder your overall health. The difference in these nutrients is what gives some foods different benefits, including antiviral capabilities. Here’s a list of ten antiviral foods that will help you fight off the flu or coronavirus, including COVID-19.

What Are Antiviral Foods?

Antiviral foods are enriched with a litany of organic compounds that help fight off pathogens within the body. Viruses like to infiltrate healthy cells and use their membranes as a host so they can replicate their own DNA. From there, they take over the system.

One analysis about how viruses infect cells explained,

“Once a virus gets inside a cell, it hijacks the cellular processes to produce virally encoded protein that will replicate the virus’s genetic material. Viral mechanisms are capable of translocating proteins and genetic material from the cell and assembling them into new virus particles [1].”

Biophys J

So, you want to make sure you are eating foods that not only fight off viruses but also offer support to your healthy cells. The best antiviral foods should nourish and rejuvenate compromised cells and aid in cell proliferation. With these qualities, antiviral foods can help keep your immune system strong during flu season.

The Best Antiviral Foods to Fight Flu

There are an array of foods that have antioxidant-boosting abilities that will keep your immune system strong. However, even some of these nutritious foods have even more benefits. They’re antiviral foods! That means these food sources can fight off a viral attack. Here are the ten antiviral foods that will give you the balanced diet necessary for optimal wellness.

Garlic

There’s a reason why garlic keeps vampires away. Things that suck that life out of you aren’t a fan of the potent aromatic compounds found in garlic. Luckily for us, these molecules make garlic one of the most delicious antiviral foods out there [2].

antiviral foods
Pucker up for
antiviral protection

There are three primary compounds found in garlic that exhibit antiviral capabilities:

  • Allicin
  • Diallyl Trisulfide
  • Ajoene

Research shows that these compounds can impede the growth of influenza A and influenza B, as well as herpes and HIV. In the case of HIV, ajoene, in particular, has proven particularly helpful. Early HIV studies suggest ajoene prevents the irregular cellular processes triggered by HIV-infected cells [3].

Star Anise

Star anise is one of the best-kept secrets in the world of antiviral foods. This licorice-flavored spice is rich in shikimic acid. This acidic molecule has potent antiviral capabilities. In fact, it’s an active ingredient in Theraflu!

This spice has a very powerful flavor. It’s ideal for broths and teas. There are many ways to use star anise, but don’t go overboard. A little can go a long way with this Chinese herb.

Olive Leaf

There’s a reason why those who follow a Mediterranean Diet have a longer lifespan. They consume an abundance of whole foods and healthy fats. One of their greatest source of both those desirable health habits is the olive.

While olives themselves have many health benefits, don’t sleep on the olive leaf. Olive leaves are one of the most abundant sources of oleuropein. Studies involving this molecule found that it shows significant effects against respiratory syncytial virus and para-influenza type 3 virus [5].

Ginger

antiviral foods
Ginger me timbers

Ginger is a tasty way to spice up your list of antiviral foods. This tangy root can bring life to any stir-fry or give your water a fizzy flavor. It also has excellent antiviral capabilities.

One study found that ginger helped improve the cells in both the upper respiratory tract (HEp-2 cells) and lower respiratory tract (A549 cells) [6]. The analysis noted improvements in both HEp-2 cells and A549 cells up to 27% and 12.9% respectively.

Furthermore, analysts noted that ginger caused cells to secrete Interferon-beta (IFN-β). IFN-β is a polypeptide that has antiviral capabilities because it regulates DNA encryption [7]. So, it can help block a viral attack.

Oregano Oil

An unsung hero in antiviral foods is oregano oil. Extracts from this Italian herb are rich in antioxidants and other healing compounds.

herbs for leaky gut
Get your oregano on!

In particular, oregano oil contains a high concentration of:

  • Carvacrol
  • Thymol
  • Terpinene

Namely, carvacrol can stop nonenveloped murine norovirus (MNV) in its tracks [8]. MNV is a precursor to nuroviruses. Carvacarol achieves this by targeting the virus’ RNA. Researchers noted that antiviral effects can happen within an hour of ingesting oregano oil.

Namely, carvacrol can stop nonenveloped murine norovirus (MNV) in its tracks [8]. MNV is a precursor to noroviruses. Carvacrol achieves this by targeting the virus’s RNA. Researchers noted that antiviral effects could happen within an hour of ingesting oregano oil.

Spirulina

The sea-based superfood spirulina is one of the most versatile antiviral foods. You can add spirulina powder to a variety of superfood smoothies. If you never thought about doing so, it might be time to reconsider.

One study looked at the effects of spirulina on three predominant types of influenza [9]. Results found that after one hour, the blue algae inhibited virus replication.

Researchers saw viral yields of the following types of influenza decrease by the following:

  • A/WSN/33(H1N1) – 68%
  • A/TW/3446/02(H3N2) – 90%
  • B/TW/70555/05 – 94%

Many of the antiviral benefits of spirulina are attributed to its high levels of cyanovirin-N. This protein has shown promise in slowing down the progression of HIV to AIDS [10].

Shiitake Mushrooms

An investment in your health

If you give a shiitake about your health, you should give shiitake mushrooms a try. These fungi are teeming with beta-glucans. These are sugars that have antiviral capabilities. In fact, hospitals administer beta-glucans via an IV to prevent infection post-surgery [11].

One study on the antiviral benefits of shiitake mushrooms found that these foods had a positive impact on the immune system. Researchers stated that compounds in shiitake mushrooms increased secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) in the body [12]. They noted that this action improved gut motility, which would help with many gastro problems.

sIgA is an antibody. It plays a significant role in protecting the cell membrane. As we mentioned, viruses like to use the cells as hosts so they can carry out their agenda. Eating antiviral foods rich in sIgA can help prevent that attack.

Green Tea

We are big proponents of drinking tea in a healthy gut diet plan. Green tea is one of the many reasons why tea time is always on our agenda. Our tasty brew is enriched with catechins. In particular, green tea has an abundance of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

An analysis about this antiviral brew noted,

“EGCG, the most abundant catechin in green tea, was shown to minimize the infectivity of the influenza A and B virus in Madin–Darby canine kidney cells. Furthermore, EGCG and ECG inhibited the activity of viral RNA (ribonucleic acid), which suppressed virus propagation [13].”

Molecules.

Furthermore, ECGC fights off the following viral families:

antiviral foods
Green tea is one of the healthiest
beverages in the world
  • Flaviviridae
  • Retroviridae
  • Hepadnaviridae
  • Herpesviridae
  • Adenoviridae
  • Orthomyxoviridae
  • Picornavirida

Suffice to say, if you are showing some symptoms of the flu, get the tea flowing. Add some star anise to your green tea. If not, try the next item on our list of top antiviral foods.

Elderberries

Elderberries are finally getting the credit they deserve in the world of flu prevention. Compounds in this superfruit bind onto the little spikes found on virus proteins. As a result, these viruses are unable to leech onto healthy cells and overtake the system.

One study administered treatment to 60 influenza patients [14]. Half received elderberry syrup, while the other group had a placebo. Those who consumed elderberry felt better on an average of four days sooner than their counterparts.

Yogurt

antiviral foods
Start your morning off right
with a yogurt bowl

One of the best antiviral foods is probiotics. Probiotics in yogurt help set up our gut to be the first line of defense against viral infection.

Filling your gut biome with stomach bacteria has shown to help fight off the growth of enterovirus (EV) 71 up to 45% [15].

One analysis noted common probiotic strains helped alleviate symptoms of the flu, such as:

  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum

Both of these stomach bacteria are also common recommendations in the Thryve Gut Health Program. That’s why many of our custom probiotics supplements contain these strains. Find out if your gut needs this support against a viral attack. Get your gut tested today!

Thryve Probiotics Gut Health

Resources

[1] Cohen F. S. (2016). How Viruses Invade Cells. Biophysical journal110(5), 1028–1032. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2016.02.006

[2] Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., & Gorji, A. (2014). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine4(1), 1–14.

[3] Tatarintsev, A V, et al. “The Ajoene Blockade of Integrin-Dependent Processes in an HIV-Infected Cell System.” Vestnik Rossiiskoi Akademii Meditsinskikh Nauk, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1992, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1284227.

[4] Bochkov, D. V., Sysolyatin, S. V., Kalashnikov, A. I., & Surmacheva, I. A. (2012). Shikimic acid: review of its analytical, isolation, and purification techniques from plant and microbial sources. Journal of chemical biology5(1), 5–17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12154-011-0064-8.

[5] Omar S. H. (2010). Oleuropein in olive and its pharmacological effects. Scientia pharmaceutica78(2), 133–154. https://doi.org/10.3797/scipharm.0912-18.

[6] Chang, Jung San, et al. “Fresh Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) Has Anti-Viral Activity against Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Human Respiratory Tract Cell Lines.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Jan. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23123794.

[7] Markowitz, Clyde E. “Interferon-Beta: Mechanism of Action and Dosing Issues.” Neurology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 12 June 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17562848.

[8] Gilling, D H, et al. “Antiviral Efficacy and Mechanisms of Action of Oregano Essential Oil and Its Primary Component Carvacrol against Murine Norovirus.” Journal of Applied Microbiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24779581.

[9] Chen, Y. H., Chang, G. K., Kuo, S. M., Huang, S. Y., Hu, I. C., Lo, Y. L., & Shih, S. R. (2016). Well-tolerated Spirulina extract inhibits influenza virus replication and reduces virus-induced mortality. Scientific reports6, 24253. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep24253.

[10] Tsai, Che-Chung, et al. “Cyanovirin-N Inhibits AIDS Virus Infections in Vaginal Transmission Models.” AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15000694.

[11] Rahar, S., Swami, G., Nagpal, N., Nagpal, M. A., & Singh, G. S. (2011). Preparation, characterization, and biological properties of β-glucans. Journal of advanced pharmaceutical technology & research2(2), 94–103. https://doi.org/10.4103/2231-4040.82953.

[12] Dai, Xiaoshuang, et al. “Consuming Lentinula Edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25866155.

[13] Furushima, D., Ide, K., & Yamada, H. (2018). Effect of Tea Catechins on Influenza Infection and the Common Cold with a Focus on Epidemiological/Clinical Studies. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)23(7), 1795. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23071795.

[14] Zakay-Rones, Z, et al. “Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections.” The Journal of International Medical Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15080016.

[15] Choi, Hw-Jung, et al. “Antiviral Activity of Yogurt against Enterovirus 71 in Vero Cells.” Food Science and Biotechnology, The Korean Society of Food Science and Technology, 1 Jan. 1970, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10068-010-0042-x.