Since cold and flu season is well under way, it's important to have an arsenal of healthy weaponry to defend against pesky symptoms. Before you reach for a handful of over-the-counter meds at the first sign of sniffles, give these natural immunity boosters a try.
Extra credit for those who regularly incorporate these cold fighters into their everyday routine. They can help prevent symptoms from coming on in the first place! Check 'em out:
Get your daily D. Although it's a well-known immunity-booster, surprisingly, many Americans don't receive enough of this "sunshine vitamin." The best food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and cod and D-fortified foods like milk and some orange juice and cereals. Small amounts are in egg yolks, cheese and beef liver. But it's hard to get the recommended amounts through diet alone. A healthy dose of sunshine does the body good, in small increments. Your health care provider may recommend a supplement, if your D levels are low.
Embrace good bacteria. Probiotics help fend off colds, regulate your digestive system and can help prevent bacterial-induced acne. Try yogurts, sauerkraut and kefir to get the benefits of these "good" bacteria.
Say "yes" to garlic. Aside from being a staple in Italian dishes, garlic is an immunity-boosting superstar. One clove contains 5 milligrams of calcium, 12 milligrams of potassium and more than 100 sulfuric compounds—powerful enough to wipe out bacteria and infection (it was used to prevent gangrene in both World Wars). While it tastes great sautéed, raw garlic is most beneficial for health, because heat and water inactivate sulfur enzymes, which can diminish garlic's antibiotic effects.
Mix it up. Smoothies are a great way to make sure you're getting enough fruits and veggies in your diet. Give your smoothie a boost by blending in echinacea powder. Medical research has shown echinacea to be safe and effective in decreasing the frequency, duration and severity of common illnesses such as ear and sinus infections, colds and the flu.
Add 'shrooms. Shiitake mushrooms have been used as a health tonic in traditional medicines for thousands of years. Mao Shing Ni, PhD, DOM, a contributor to blog.droz.com, suggests making this easy immunity-enhancing soup to reap the benefits of shiitake: Cook cabbage, carrots, fresh ginger, onion, oregano, shiitake mushrooms, any kind of seaweed and any type of squash in chicken or vegetable stock and simmer for 30 minutes.