grubstreet.comIt’s flu-fighting season and time to stock up on vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, probiotics, flavonoids, certain amino acids and fibers … or just eat the foods that contain them. Here, then, is a list of the top 10 immune boosters, tasty chow with nutrients sure to power up your immune system this winter.

1. Yogurt

Eat yogurt with probiotics, or “live active cultures,” which are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of the disease-causing bacteria and germs. A study from the University of Vienna in Austria found that a daily 7-ounce dose of yogurt was just as effective in boosting immunity as medications.  Look for yogurt with a “Live and Active Cultures” seal. Also look at the label for Vitamin D, as a deficiency of this vitamin is associated with increased risk of cold and flu.

2. Oats or Barley

Oats and/or barley contain a special fiber called beta-glucan, which acts as both an antioxidant and an antimicrobial, two very important substances that protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules or micro-organisms. According to a Norwegian study, the antioxidant and antimicrobial capabilities of oats or barely are more potent than the popular herb echinacea. Among their powers are helping antibiotics work better.

3. Garlic

Garlic contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights against infection and bacteria. In one British study, garlic eaters were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold than participants who ate placebos. Other research indicates that persons who eat more than six cloves of garlic a week have half the rate of stomach cancer and approximately one-third lower rate of colorectal cancer.

4. Fish

Fish contains selenium, which help white blood cells produce cytokine-proteins that rid the body of flue viruses. An extra bonus of eating fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring is loading up on omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation, increase air flow, and protect lungs from colds and respiratory infections

5. Beef

Beef is an excellent source of zinc, which helps the development of white blood cells. Persons with even a mild zinc deficiency are more susceptible to infection.

6. Sweet Potatoes

This starch is rich in Vitamin A, which helps build the connective tissue of the skin. As the first line of defense in fighting bacterial and other infections, maintaining healthy skin is a critical part of staying well.

7. Mushrooms

Mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells. Shiitake, maitake, and reshi mushrooms seem to be the best for immune systems.

8. Berries

Dark or bright berries—blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries—contain anthocyanins, which strengthen the immune system and fight disease.

9. Tea

In a Harvard study participants who drank five cups of black tea a day for two weeks had ten times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than the participants who drank a placebo hot drink. Both black and green tea contain L-theanine, a water-soluble amino acid which builds proteins and aids the immune system.

10. Chicken Soup

Chicken soup, the ultimate food when you’re feeling bad, keeps mucus thin and clears nasal congestion in the same way cough medicines do. Chicken soup also has an anti-inflammatory agent. The sulfur amino acid cycsteine, released from chicken during cooking, contributes a powerful boost to the immune system.


Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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