Your immune system is your body’s best defense against flu season. But in order to help keep it functioning at its best, your diet should include these five foods to improve immune response.
- Yogurt – Regularly eating “good bacteria” (or probiotics) can help improve digestion and strengthen your immune system. But not all yogurts are the same. You have to look for “live and active cultures” on the label since it is these live cultures that actually stimulate your immune system to fight disease. A study from the University of Vienna in Austria showed that one 7oz serving of yogurt a day was as effective in promoting immunity as taking pills. Yogurt is also fortified with vitamin D and recent research has linked low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of flu and colds. Be sure to watch the sugar levels as well. A sweetened yogurt can easily have as much added sugar as a can of soda
- Tea – Whether you prefer green or black tea, your immune system will benefit. Both provide disease-fighting antioxidants (polyphenols and flavonoids) that protect against harmful free radicals and help destroy them. One study found that catechins, a particular type of polyphenols in tea, actually kill certain viruses. Another Harvard study showed that people who drank 5 cups a day of black tea for two weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than those who drank a placebo hot drink. Both black tea and green tea are rich in L-theanine, an amino acid thought to help enhance immune response that’s found in both regular and decaf versions.
- Chicken Soup – Chicken soup is more than just good for your soul. It may keep your airways healthy, as well. Researchers at the University of Nebraska found that chicken soup deters movement of inflammatory white cells, which can help prevent colds by blocking the accumulation of cells in the bronchial tubes. The researchers found that the typical ingredients in chicken soup provide anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce congestion. For immune-boosting powers, make your chicken soup contains oregano, garlic, cilantro, carrots and onions.
- Broccoli – Broccoli is chocker block full of immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and a super antioxidant called, glutathione. Glutathione protects the body from free radicals by fortifying immune health and boosting antioxidant protection. A recent study in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that daily supplementation of glutathione was found to increase glutathione levels in the blood and improve immune response. To maximize the benefits of vitamin C and glutathione, it is best to eat these foods in their “raw” form.
- Sardines – Fatty fish is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows helps reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation in the body. In addition, a new study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows that omega-3 fatty acids may also help boost the immune system by improving the functioning of immune cells. While salmon, tuna, and trout are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, sardines may trump their fishy counterparts. Sardines are not only high in omega-3 fatty acids, but due to their small size they are extremely low in contaminants such as mercury. If you’re not a fish fan, you can get the same benefits from taking a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil. Krill oil is more potent than fish oil and doesn’t give you that fishy aftertaste.
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