Strengthen Your Immune System – Supplement Your Supplements

How to eat foods that give your immune system a boost.

Want to give your system a little help for the coming cold and flu season? Just look beyond the vitamin section.

This time of year, people start thinking more about getting germs and catching colds: Don’t touch anything in public, don’t shake hands, wash with anti-bacterial soap, stay away from kids, gargle with salt, take more vitamin C, etc. Here are a few more things to tap the natural benefits of food and give your immunity a boost. Always keep these next to the chicken soup in your preventative pantry.

Whey – Try powdered whey protein isolate. It’s a concentrated form that you can mix in to many foods and drinks. Whey is rich in an amino acid called cysteine, which converts to glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that fortifies cells against infection. Another good source is yogurt. The clear liquid that forms on top of most cartons of yogurt is pure whey protein — so don’t drain it off, just stir it back into the yogurt.

Good Fats – Vegetables have lots of disease fighting nutrients, right? Say yes. So, to get the most from those good veggies, don’t use fat free dressing! Wendy White Ph.D. at Iowa State University found that without good dietary fat, such as olive oil or nut oil, your body doesn’t absorb some of the disease-fighting nutrients in vegetables. Good fat is necessary for absorption of carotenoids, antioxidants that have been linked to improved immunity.

Chamomile Tea – In a recent study at London’s Imperial College, people who drank five cups of the brew a day for 2 weeks had increased blood levels of plant-based compounds called polyphenols. These compounds have been associated with increased antibacterial activity. Levels remained high for 2 weeks after subjects stopped drinking the tea, says lead researcher Elaine Holmes, Ph.D. Not just any hot tea, though, Chamomile is the one that will help prevent sickness.

Oats – Our bodies have white blood cells called macrophages that are a first line of defense for microorganism invaders such as bacteria or viruses. These killer cells are activated by beta-glucans, a component of fiber foods such as oats, bakers yeast or barley. Oats are the best source, says David Grotto, R.D., director of nutrition education at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Illinois. Steel-cut oats have double the amount found in the rolled, quick-cooking kind.

Wine – Drink red wine with your meal. It can prevent food poisoning in addition to being good for your heart. Scientists at Oregon State University recently found that red wine can improve your defenses against three common food pathogens: E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. In lab studies, the wine’s combination of ethanol, organic acids, and low pH appeared to scramble the bugs’ genetic material. All wines have some effect, say researchers, but reds are the most potent.

Tomato – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study on white blood cells. They found that subjects who ate a tomato-rich diet for 3 weeks had stronger infection-fighting white blood cells than when they ate no tomato products. The lycopene in tomatoes acts as an antioxidant, helping white blood cells resist the damaging effects of free radicals.

Butterbur – This herbal supplement helps you fight allergies. Scottish researchers reported in the British Medical Journal that patients with seasonal could breath better after taking the plant extract twice daily. It’s effective against all symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including sneezing, itching, and conjunctivitis, says Andreas Schapowal, M.D., Ph.D., the author of the study. Butterbur is believed to block leukotriene, a chemical that causes allergic reactions, while at the same time controlling eosinophils, the white blood cells that accumulate when allergic reactions take place.

Capsaicin – Rina Yu, Ph.D., a researched at the found that a daily dose of the compound that gives chili peppers their fire, can increase antibody-producing cells. More antibodies mean fewer colds and infections. Results of other studies suggest that eating food containing hot components such as capsaicin may improve immune status. A dash or two of hot sauce can help flush out some toxins.

Reduce – OK, so this isn’t a food you’ll have in your preventative pantry, but losing weight will benefit you in many ways, including reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and also strengthening your immune system. Researchers at Tufts University had a group of slightly overweight people cut 100 to 200 calories from their daily food intake. The results: weight loss, a drop in cholesterol counts and boosted immune system response.

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