Foods with Immune-Boosting Potential

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Flu season is here, so take precautions — the flu can be more serious than most people think. Did you know that there are foods that can help reduce your chances of getting sick? Dr. Neal Malik of Bastyr University shares the immune-boosting potential of the following foods.


Berries – Naturally high in vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants, berries can be enjoyed fresh or frozen. Eat whole berries, rather than relying on juices/smoothies. There has been some talk that Elderberries may help you recover from illnesses faster, but further research is needed to know for sure.

Cinnamon – A fall and winter favorite, cinnamon contains essential oils that may help reduce the amount of time it takes to get over a cold or the flu. Note: Cinnamon sugar is not the same as pure cinnamon. Combine yogurt, berries and a teaspoon of honey for a near perfect superhero snack!

Fresh garlic - Researchers are discovering that fresh garlic may help kill bacteria and viruses. When possible, consume fresh garlic as opposed to relying on garlic capsules/supplements — the “jury is still out” as to whether they have the same effect.

Ginger may help immune cells win the battle against colds and flu. Add fresh ginger to stir-fry recipes or salad dressing.

Honey has been used as an antibiotic for centuries. It was believed that ancient Romans would apply it to their eyes when they had conjunctivitis (pink eye). They were on to something because honey has been found to prevent the growth of bacteria. Add it to tea or as a topping to whole grain pancakes or waffles.

Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D and an underutilized immune-boosting food. Clinical researchers discovered improved immune responses in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation after consuming mushrooms.

Sweet potatoes are a fall and winter favorite that’s high in vitamins A and C, a one-two punch when it comes to knocking out bacteria and viruses.

Hot tea, a perfect beverage on a cold day, may help ward off infections. Bonus drinking tea helps people stay hydrated.

Turmeric, typically a bright yellow powder, is an immune system booster often used in curry dishes. Do your research before using turmeric supplements — many have failed quality testing, but are still on store shelves.

Yogurt - a good source of vitamin A, protein and zinc, yogurt is a great snack. Yogurt also contains healthy bacteria that may protect the digestive tract from disease-causing germs.

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Dr. Neal Malik leads the Master of Science in Nutrition for Wellness program at Bastyr University in San Diego.

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