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Prepare for the Flu Vaccine With These 3 Foods

Every year, millions of people worldwide come down with the flu, many of which land in the hospital or face an untimely death. 

Preliminary estimates from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) project nearly 9 million Americans will get the flu during the 2022–2023 flu season. Coupled with an uptick of COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases — Yale medical researchers have dubbed it a “tripledemic” — the last thing you want is to get sick.

Ideally, the best time to get vaccinated for the flu is between September and October. However, the flu shot can still protect you during the season’s peak when vaccinated after October.

Many ask, “How do I prepare my body for the flu shot?” If soreness and feeling crummy are holding you back, switching your diet can improve the vaccine’s effectiveness and help reduce the side effects.

3 Types of Foods to Prepare for the Flu Shot

Most of today’s flu shots are quadrivalent vaccines — 99% of administered flu shots were quadrivalent during the 2020–2021 season — defending against two type A and B variants of influenza. Other flu vaccines are also available for patients six months or older — the type of vaccine you’re eligible for depends on your age, allergies and medical history.

Although there aren’t set rules to prep for the flu shot, eating more from these three food categories may prime your body’s response. 

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Eating anti-inflammatory foods before your flu shot can reduce tiredness, swelling and soreness afterward. 

In general, foods with anti-inflammatory properties are excellent for preventing chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. That’s because many foods, like whole grains, contain fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants that lower inflammation throughout the body. 

Additionally, anti-inflammatory foods can prevent headaches. For instance, studies have shown that migraines occur with inflammation and oxidative stress.

Consume a well-balanced diet of anti-inflammatory foods like berries, leafy greens, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. 

Vitamin-Rich Fruits and Vegetables

Speaking of berries, leafy greens and beans, nutrient-dense foods are equally important to prepare your body for the flu vaccine — and most Americans aren’t eating enough of them. 

You can boost your immunity by consuming foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Increasing your intake of superfoods is also crucial for maintaining long-term health beyond flu season. 

Some of the best fall and winter superfoods you should include in your diet are as follows:

  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Ginger
  • Winter Squash
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Pomegranates
  • Beets
  • Sweet Potatoes

Seasonal fruits and vegetables pack the biggest punch for supporting a healthy immune system. Also, the more brightly colored vegetables and fruits, the better. Even one red bell pepper has three times as much vitamin C as an orange.


Staying well-hydrated is as essential for your overall health as it is before getting the flu vaccine. Since fever is a possible side effect of the shot, water can help regulate your body temperature.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that adult men have 15.5 cups of fluid intake daily while women have 11.5 cups. Of course, 20% of this amount could also come from other drinks and the foods you eat. 

Some of the most hydrating foods include watermelon, iceberg lettuce, celery, zucchini, pineapple, spinach and cucumbers. In fact, cucumbers’ water content is 96.73%.

How to Minimize the Side Effects of the Flu Shot

The prick you’ll feel from the shot may be the least of your worries — many people avoid the flu shot because of how it makes them feel afterward. If you’re wondering how to minimize the side effects of the flu shot, there are a few techniques you can try. 

Staying hydrated is just as necessary following the flu vaccine. Dehydration could cause muscle tenderness, headaches and digestive problems. It also clears detoxification pathways and bodily toxins for improved lymphatic draining. 

Although controversial, some studies have pointed to improved vaccine efficacy with probiotics. A healthy gut can directly control the body’s immune response to pathogens and decrease the risk of infections. Research has so far shown that gut microbiota can also affect the acquired immunity from the vaccine itself.

Soreness at the vaccine spot is also to be expected and your upper arm may feel tender for a couple of days after getting the flu shot. Doing gentle arm exercises can boost blood circulation and reduce inflammation, which may provide some relief at the injection site.

Of course, if you’re tired or lightheaded, it’s best to lie down and allow your body some time to rest. Your body repairs and restores itself on the cellular level when you’re asleep. Studies also suggest that sleep improves immunological memory and function and increases the vaccine’s antibody production.

Eat Right to Prepare and Recover From the Flu Vaccine

Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated is the best way to prepare for the flu vaccine. You can improve vaccine efficacy by consuming enough vitamins and minerals to support a healthy immune response to the shot.

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