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3 immune-boosting foods to get you through winter

By Michelle Edelbaum, October 22, 2009 - 11:12am

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With all the media hype about the H1N1 flu virus and the seasonal flu, I’m finding it hard not to be worried about getting sick this winter. I want to keep my immune system as healthy as possible, so I’m going to include these 3 immunity boosters in my diet. (Get the facts about 5 common “cold cures” here.) Plus, I’ll wash my hands, take a multi-vitamin and try to get enough sleep too.

1. Chicken Soup

It turns out there is something to chicken soup after all. In one study, hot chicken soup was more effective than hot or cold water at making noses run—a good thing since nasal secretions help rid the body of pathogenic viruses and bacteria. Like any hot liquid, soup also helps you to stay hydrated and raises the temperature of the airways, both of which are important for loosening secretions. Adding a few hot chiles to this Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill recipe might help loosen things up even more.

2. Yogurt

Regularly eating probiotics, so-called “good bacteria” found in foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, may help your immune system work better and improve digestion. Kefir (a yogurt-like beverage) is also a good bet. Find out how these magical bacteria work to keep you healthy here. Look for products labeled with a “Live & Active Cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association, which signifies that the yogurt contains a set minimum amount of two particular types of beneficial bacteria. (While it’s not a guarantee of probiotic power—the bacterial counts don’t differentiate between added probiotic organisms and the bacteria that’s used to ferment the yogurt—the seal is a helpful start.) With the new “probiotic” cereals and granola bars on the market now, it’s not always clear how much good bacteria the manufacturers actually add to the products or whether the strains included are effective. If you really want to know about the science backing a product’s “probiotic power,” contact the manufacturer. To boost your immune system, Make Pina Colada Yogurt Parfait or one of 9 other delicious yogurt recipes.

3. Green tea

To fight the flu, turn to tea. One laboratory study suggested that a particular type of polyphenols found in green tea, potent plant antioxidants, may kill influenza viruses. Although just how they work isn’t fully known, research suggests that catechins, a type of polyphenols in green tea, may stimulate production and activity of some immune cells and inhibit the production of disease-promoting inflammatory compounds. Don’t add milk to your tea: the proteins will bind to the polyphenols, making them ineffective. To avoid brewing bitter tea, follow our guidelines for brewing a perfect cup of green tea and find out what 1 thing you should add to your tea to make it even healthier.

What foods you you load up on when you think you're getting sick? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Michelle Edelbaum, Health Blog, Nutrition, Wellness

Michelle Edelbaum
Michelle is the digital editor for EatingWell Media Group. She puts her background in journalism to work online at EatingWell.com and in EatingWell Magazine, authoring the Good Questions interview with interesting people in the world of food and health.

Michelle asks: What foods you you load up on when you think you're getting sick?

Tell us what you think:

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