Winter is upon us which means flu season is in full force. While the flu is unpleasant for anyone, it can be especially dangerous for seniors who have weakened immune systems.
Although we don’t tend to think of food as medication, it can provide you with proactive disease-fighting protection similar to taking supplements. The right immune boosting foods can give you the vitamins and minerals your body needs to fight germs, bacteria and other things that lead to illnesses. Here are several immune-boosting foods that will help you fight the flu this season.
Mushrooms and Garlic
Mushrooms are a great choice if you want to strengthen your immune system. People do not traditionally think of mushrooms as illness-fighting foods, but they are. Mushrooms contain selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines which fight illness, and beta glucan, which helps activate cells that find and destroy germs.
Fresh garlic is another flu fighter. Garlic contains phytochemical allicin which a British study found reduced a person’s risk of illness and helped sick people recover faster. Even though you can take garlic supplements, researchers say it is best to eat the actual garlic.
Meat and Seafood
Eating salmon will boost your vitamin D levels as well as provide you with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A recent study showed that people with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to contract a respiratory infection than those with high levels of vitamin D.
You’ve heard the old wives’ tales about eating chicken soup when you’re sick. Well, research says that it may not be just a myth. Chicken soup can help you get well quicker. The hot liquid in the soup helps loosen up mucus while the chicken contains amino acids which helps treat cough in bronchitis.
Another important component in a strong immune system is zinc. Zinc increases your body’s production of white blood cells which attack bacteria and germs that would otherwise cause a person to get sick. Because just one oyster contains 100% of your daily zinc requirement, these molluscs are one of the best immune boosting foods. Beef is another source for zinc which also helps your body fight off infection.
Tea and Chocolate
One of the most common home remedies for illness is tea. It also happens to be one of the most effective. A Harvard University study found that drinking five cups of black tea a day quadrupled the body’s immune defense system after two weeks. However, black tea is not the only healthy option to prevent flu. Green and oolong tea also have antioxidants and L-theanine, which is an amino acid not found anywhere but in green tea. L-theanine helps strengthen your immune system by reducing the amount of inflammatory proteins and increasing production of glutathione – an antioxidant.
Dark chocolate is another tasty choice for boosting the immune system. It turns out that cocoa supports T-helper cells that fight infections. Enjoy this immune boosting food, but remember that sugar weakens the immune system so you don’t want to overdo it. If you’re choosing between chocolates, go for those with high cocoa content. Even better, would be to look for items high in cocoa content AND fruit or nut pieces.
Fruits, Vegetables and Nuts
According to researchers at Tufts University, vitamin E can reduce your chance of catching colds and developing respiratory infections. Almonds and sunflower seeds are both a great source of vitamin E, as are spinach and swiss chard.
The most famous immune-booster vitamin is known to be found in oranges, lemons and limes, which is Vitamin C. One cup of strawberries will also provide 160% of your daily vitamin C requirements. Another less known immune boosting food is sweet potatoes, which also contain Vitamin C and other vitamins to protect your skin. It is important to build your skin’s line of defenses as this is the largest organ in your immune system. Your skin houses bacteria fighting antibodies that serve to keep germs from going further. If you are already sick, your skin’s antibodies need replenished and supported to protect against other illnesses.
Beta carotene is another vitamin needed to strengthen the immune system. It helps the development of immune system cells and neutralizes harmful toxins. Sweet potatoes and other orange foods are a good source of this crucial vitamin. You can also get it from dark green vegetables like spinach. Beta carotene will help prevent respiratory infections.
Yogurt contains probiotics, which are good for your digestive system. It also helps improve your immune system. If you don’t like yogurt, you can eat cottage cheese. Another option you might not think of is sauerkraut.
Next time you feel a little under the weather remember to reach for one of these flu-fighting foods to stay healthy. Some of these foods good for the immune system will help you stay well while others will reduce the time you spend sick.
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