Strengthen Your Immune System with These Foods
Don’t let your immune system flag on you now. Cold temperatures and post-holiday stress can still weaken your defenses, while the longer time spent indoors during the winter exposes you to more infectious agents. Put the oomph back in your killer T cells, B cells, and macrophages with whole foods rich in minerals, vitamins A, B, C, and E, and essential fatty acids. The following five superstar foods will turbo-boost your immunity so it can fight off colds and flu all winter long.
A clove a day keeps doctors (but hopefully not loved ones) away. Naturally antimicrobial and antifungal, garlic also increases the body’s production of white blood cells, which defend against invading pathogens. The key healthful ingredient in garlic, allicin, only forms after exposure to air, so either eat a clove or two raw or crush the garlic and let it sit for 10 minutes before you cook with it. To fight garlic breath, munch on fresh parsley. To get the garlicky smell off your hands, rub on a little lemon juice.
This flavorful fungus contains a compound called lentinan that stimulates the production of interferon. A potent antiviral and antibacterial protein, interferon activates natural killer cells at the site of infection. What’s more, in a recent study at Penn State University, researchers discovered that shiitakes deliver 40 times more of the disease-fighting antioxidant ergothioneine than other top contenders such as wheat germ and liver. These and other healthful properties have drawn widespread research attention to shiitakes as an immune strengthener.
Essential for a strong antibody response, the mineral selenium plays a key role in warding off colds. Brazil nuts provide one of the highest concentrations of selenium, as well as other important nutrients like magnesium, iron, vitamin E, glutathione, and zinc. You just need a small handful to get a full serving of these germ-busters.
These creamy fruits launch a three-prong attack against imminent colds. The vitamin E they supply neutralizes free radicals and protects against infection, while the B vitamins promote antibody production. Additionally, the omega-6 essential fatty acid in avocados quells chronic low-level inflammation, which research has tied to a weakened immune system. Guacamole anyone?
A potent detoxifier, grapefruits pack high levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate, and potassium, all important nutrients for immune function. Grapefruits are also rich in glutathione, an antioxidant that ramps up the action of bug-battling lymphocytes like killer T cells.
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