Oct 312012

foods to boost immunityIt’s hard to believe we’re almost at that time of year—cold and flu season, that is. Did you know that the only way to help prevent these nasty bugs from invading our immune systems is nutrition?  And nutrition is the only cure for colds and flu—not antibiotics.

It takes a bit more than an apple a day to keep up our immune system.  In fact; taking a proactive approach will keep you healthier year round. Read these tips on how to stock your pantry with delicious and nutritious foods and snacks. Follow the simple steps below, and you may avoid the tissue box this year.

Garlic—Garlic is a wonderful seasoning to add aroma, taste, and added nutrition to your dishes.  At just 4 calories per clove, it’s a low-cal immunity-boosting superstar.  It is powerful enough to wipe out bacteria and infection (it was used to prevent gangrene in both world wars).

Raw garlic, not cooked or dried, is most beneficial for health, since heat and water inactivate sulfur enzymes, which can diminish garlic’s antibiotic effects.  If you’re using chopped garlic, it’s recommended to let it sit for about 5 minutes for the healing properties to develop

Ginger—Ginger can not only be warming on a cold day, but can help promote healthy sweating, which is often helpful during colds and flu’s in combating chills and fever in general.  It is a strong antioxidant and a natural antimicrobial (kills bacteria), as well as an anti-inflammatory agent. It’s also one of the best remedies for throat pain, a common symptom of cold or flu.

Use ginger is stir fry’s and soups, add to baked goods.  How about some ginger cookies?

Selenium–Selenium is a natural occurring mineral that is abundant in certain types of seafood and other foods. It is known to help boost your immune system by helping your body develop white blood cells. These white blood cells help your body fight off diseases and other threatening agents.

Plentiful in shellfish, chicken, tuna, whole grains, and brown rice, selenium can help clear viruses out of the body.  One of the best sources of selenium is Brazil nuts—just 3-4 nuts a day will help build your immune system.

A great option for non-meat eaters is button mushrooms.  Formally dismissed as not having much nutrition, research has found that they are plentiful in the mineral selenium and other antioxidants.  Studies have also shown mushrooms to have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-tumor effects.

Zinc—You’ve probably heard of taking zinc lozenges after the first signs of cold or flu have hit.  This mineral is important for the development of white blood cells. For those who have cut back on beef, try turkey, beans, oysters, crab, or fortified milk. It’s always better to get vitamins and minerals from foods, but it’s a good idea to travel with zinc lozenges, just in case.

Don’t forget to eat your fruit and veggies, loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants.  By the way, chicken soup is good for more than the soul.  The chicken contains cystein, an amino acid that thins the mucous in the lungs and reduces the syptoms of a cold or flu.

Make the soup with real chicken stock if possible.  Add garlic and ginger for a spicy flavor and to add to the healing properties.  The ginger will take care of any accompanying nausea.

Some other snacks to have on hand are:

  • Almonds—a handful of almonds can help prevent your immune system from the effects of stress.  One serving has almost 50% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin E, which helps boost the immune system.
  • Low-fat Yogurt—a daily cup may reduce your chances of getting a cold.  Look for labels listing “live and active cultures.”  Researchers believe that they stimulate your immune system to fight bacteria and disease.
  • ginger teaTea—People who drink black or green tea have a leg up.  There systems have 10 times more virus protection than those who don’t.  Decaf versions have it too, and green tea is available in combination with blueberry, pomegranate and other powerful antioxidants.

Wash your hand thoroughly and often. Other than eating a healthy diet, washing your hands is your first line of defense, and really does reduce the number of organisms that can enter you body.

If the bug does bite, drink up!  Enjoy this delicious recipe for a Ginger Tea with lemon and honey.

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