4 Prevention Power Foods to Stave Off Sickness this Season
With cold and flu season in full swing, my kitchen is like an apothecary turned tea room, with jars of herbs everywhere, teas for every symptom, and a constant stream of dirty teacups. My girls, 13 and 15, recently developed flu symptoms one after the other, as round the family it went, until I was the last one standing. Yikes!
Unfortunately, as parents, getting sick mostly means taking care of everyone else while feeling so lousy you’d trade your new boots for some rest. So, the best defense against the seasonal strains you’re bound to come across if you go out in public, is to build your immunity; right?
If only it were that simple!
Immunity is a funny thing. According to science, there is no one food or herbal remedy that can instantly boost or strengthen it, no matter what the ads say. Instead your body works like a symphony, harmonizing multiple components to produce the strong rhythm required for beautiful music. The quality of both the composition and the practice are critical to the strength of the performance, just as the composition of a balanced diet and your physical routine are key among the many components that create a strong immune system.
With all its interwoven complexity, changes to this system take time. The quick-fix solutions rarely work, as the key to a healthy immune system is a healthy way of life.
Fortunately, just like not all symphonies are the New York Philharmonic, all people don’t need to follow strict diet and exercise regimes to be healthy enough to stave off cold and flu. What I mean is, following basic guidelines for a diet rich in whole foods and low in sugar combined with a lifestyle of moderate exercise are usually enough to keep your body on a stable health track.
Supplementing your diet with probiotics and vitamin D3 may also make sense, especially during winter months when sun exposure is especially limited. Top it off with a good night’s sleep and you’ll likely be fine.
However, I’m one of those people who, for sanity reasons, just can’t afford to get sick. And I know that regularly consuming certain nutrient-rich foods over the long term can raise health markers to new heights. So every winter I step it up a notch. Instead of focusing on the quick fix solution, I ramp up for cold and flu season with some power players, which I include as a regular part of my diet.
Prevention Magazine listed 9 power foods for immunity in an article I recently read, and while most of the foods, such as sweet potatoes and barley, aren’t likely to become a daily staple for most of us, others can be worked in more seamlessly with a bit of planning.
Everyday staples like plain yogurt (the flavored versions are usually high in sugar), garlic, tea and mushrooms are easy to include as part of your immune boosting daily diet. So grab a pen since after reading these findings, you’ll likely be inspired to revamp your shopping list!
4 Prevention Power Foods and the Studies that Prove Them
Prevention cites a study from the University of Vienna in Austria, which found that a daily 7-ounce dose of yogurt was just as effective in boosting immunity as popping pills. In an 80-day Swedish study of 181 factory employees, those who drank a daily supplement of Lactobacillus reuteri—a specific probiotic that appears to stimulate white blood cells—took 33% fewer sick days than those given a placebo.
When it comes to garlic, Prevention recommends two raw cloves a day and adding crushed garlic to your cooking several times a week.
In one study, British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; the garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Other studies suggest that garlic lovers who chow more than six cloves a week have a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer and a 50% lower rate of stomach cancer.
A Harvard study found that people who drank 5 cups a day of black tea for 2 weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who drank a placebo hot drink. The amino acid that’s responsible for this immune boost, L-theanine, is abundant in both black and green tea—decaf versions have it, too. Your optimal dose: well, 5 cups daily if you’re focused on immunity boosting.
According to Prevention, “Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection,” says Douglas Schar, DipPhyt, MCPP, MNIMH, director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Washington, DC.
Your optimal dose: Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms appear to pack the biggest immunity punch; experts recommend at least ¼ ounce to 1 ounce a few times a day for maximum immune benefits.
I must admit, I’ve substituted cooked garlic for raw and I’ve been resorting to popping the probiotics tablets since I’m not overly fond of yogurt. What has worked is incorporating reishi mushrooms and l-theanine into energy tea, which I enjoy drinking throughout the day during this critical season.
Of the 9 power foods listed in the original article, I manage to consume 2 in the recommended quantities and most the others here and there as much as I can work in. I realize that this isn’t an especially impressive average. Fortunately that’s not the goal.
Instead of pursuing perfection, I’m usually more successful when finding my own unique rhythm. My regular diet is full or fresh, whole foods and very little processed, which is key to long-term wellness. So far, I’ve managed to stay healthy in my house of sick kids, which is no small feat. Whether that’s due to the power foods or to the power of positive thinking, either way I’m in.
To view the Prevention article, click below: