The most effective way to fight the flu is to be vaccinated, which causes your body to make antibodies that target specific illnesses. That’s what most experts will say, anyway.
But, nature may be just as effective. Your diet can provide a boost to your immune system, which can help you get through the flu season without so much as a sniffle. Here are some of the best immune-boosting foods, with a couple lesser known choices:
Vampires are popular these days. Will their nemesis, garlic, follow? The stinking rose, as it’s sometimes called, contains allicin, a phytochemical that may lower cholesterol and make blood platelets less sticky, which cuts the risk of clots.
But, this tasty relative of the onion has more to offer.
“Garlic apparently stimulates the body’s immune system, particularly enhancing the macrophages and lymphocytes, which destroy cancer cells,” says Dr. Benjamin Lau, physician and author of the book, Garlic for Health.
While other berries hog the spotlight, this lesser known variation packs just as much of a healthful punch. Elderberries are small, dark berries that grow in clusters on elder trees, which are also called elderberry bushes.
Elderberries have anti-viral capabilities. They are a good source of flavonoids, including quercetin and the anthocyanins, which appear to have significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and can activate immune cells that help your body fight off viruses. The elderberry fruit also has lectins, which have been shown to stop the replication of 10 different strains of the flu virus.
Here’s yet another lesser known berry, even though it has enjoyed a bit of a trendy streak with the onset of acai berry diet. Acai pulp has a high concentration of antioxidants that help combat premature aging. It has 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and as much as 30 times more anthocyanins, the powerful antioxidants found in red wine.
Yogurt is one of those rare sweet treats that seems more like dessert than your typical health food. Have it low-fat, twice a day. Yogurt can stave off colds and yeast infections, and keep your digestive tract healthy. Brands that contain active cultures are a good source of healthy bacteria for your stomach. This is especially important if you are taking antibiotics.
“When we take antibiotics they destroy most of the bacteria in our body,” says nutritionist Heidi Skolnik. “The problem is that there are some beneficial bacteria that the antibiotics take care of as well. We need these, especially those found in our intestines, to help us break down foods.”
Broccoli contains diindolylmethane (DIM), a chemical that is released when the food is chewed and digested. It’s known to have cancer-fighting properties. But, new research from the University of California, Berkeley shows that DIM increased blood levels of cytokines, proteins that help regulate the cells of the immune system.
I’ve always loved them, but I’ve been particularly obsessed with mushrooms these days. All you have to do is spray a baking pan with olive oil-flavored cooking spray, maybe add a little Mrs. Dash is you want some kick, and bake. I can just leave them bare, and the natural moisture and taste make for a great low-calorie side dish.
Tufts University laboratory research published in 2003 showed that eating mushrooms enhanced the body’s own bug fighters, such as cytokines, which is a hormone-like protein that defends the body against viral infections and tumors.