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Published on December 16, 2014

Fight Flu Season with Immune-boosting Foods

December 16, 2014

oatmeal with apple slices and nutsCold and flu season peaks in winter, which means it is important to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Thankfully, many foods are not only appealing in the cold weather, but can also give your immune system a little nudge in the right direction. These foods won’t have quite the illness-avoiding power of living in a plastic bubble, but they hopefully will help keep you from catching a cold from your cubicle neighbor.

Oatmeal is always a good breakfast go-to in the winter. It’s warm and filling, and oats contain beta-glucan, which has antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities that rival those of echinacea. Next time you find yourself feeling a little under the weather, have some oatmeal for breakfast. While you’re at it, consider adding some berries, which are high in vitamins C and E.

Chicken soup is another good immune system booster. The comfort food is considered a sick day staple for a reason—it contains many components that help your body fight off illness. Its salty broth helps thin mucus and relieve congestion, and the soup is high in antioxidants and vitamins. Cysteine, an amino acid released when chicken is cooked, helps block the migration of inflammatory white blood cells. Cysteine chemically resembles acetylcysteine, which is used to treat bronchitis, and researchers believe the cysteine in chicken soup works the same way. Chicken also provides immune-boosting nutrients such as iron, zinc and selenium.

Canned soup is often excessively high in sodium and unnecessary ingredients, so make your own at home for a healthy dose. Add in whatever veggies you have on hand!

We see sweet potatoes at almost every holiday meal, but did you know they could help your body fight off infection? Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta-carotene, which your body can convert to vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a huge part in your body’s production of connective tissue, an important component of your skin.

Can You Be-leaf It?

Who doesn’t like a good cup of tea? Your immune system certainly does. Chemicals commonly found in tea, called alkylamines, are also present in many disease-causing agents in nature. Your body recognizes the alkylamines in tea, which could help build your resistance and cause the T cells in your body to remember the alkylamines the next time they encounter them.

One study from Harvard found that tea consumption makes a measurable difference. People who drank five cups of black tea a day over the course of two weeks had 10 times more interferon, a protein made and released by the human body in response to infection, in their blood than people who did not drink tea. Five cups of tea a day might be a little on the high end if you aren’t accustomed to drinking it, but even a couple cups could give you a boost.


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