The air is getting cooler and with cozy nights by the fire comes another not-so-friendly reminder of the season—the annual cold. Don’t ring in the season by catching something unpleasant. These immune-boosting foods can help you fight off bugs before your first sniffle. Bonus, they taste pretty great too!
Mushrooms have been used to support immunity for centuries, but it’s only now that researchers know why they’re so effective. Studies show that consuming funghi enhances the number and performance of white blood cells. Since these cells are the body’s first defense for fighting any kind of infection, a healthy supply is essential. Try shiitake, maitake or reishi mushrooms which appear to offer the biggest immunity boost.
Much of how we feel is regulated by the gut. Craving sugar? You may have an overgrowth of Candida. Feeling the end-of-summer blues? Research shows it’s bacteria in our digestive tract that regulates levels of the “happy hormone” serotonin. If you’re coming down with a cold, it may be time to check in with your gut. While we’re still learning a lot about how the gut works, most doctors recommend consuming probiotics as one way to keep it happy. Consuming yogurt is a great way to get your probiotic dose. A Swedish study found that of 181 factory employees, those that consumed a daily supplement of Lactobacillus reuteri—a specific probiotic that appears to stimulate white blood cells—took 33 percent fewer sick days than those given a placebo. Try Stonyfield Farm yogurt (which contains this specific strain) with almonds, pistachios and warming spices in our favorite Mediterranean Spiced Yogurt.
There’s good reason mom sent you to school with a belly full of oatmeal. The beta-glucan (a type of fiber) in the grains has more antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities than Echinacea, according to a Norwegian study. Enjoy a bowl in the morning to boost immunity and promote speedy wound recovery. We like it with almonds, coconut milk and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Do you know the secret ingredient in over-the-counter remedies that is guaranteed to shorten the duration of your cold? It’s zinc, which is integral for the development of white blood cells. Unfortunately many of us are short on the this key nutrient which means when cold season comes we’re more susceptible. The good news is there’s an easy way to get your daily dose. Oysters, beef and lamb are great sources. Try these Dried Cranberry Apricot Braised Lamp chops. If meat isn’t in your diet, regularly consuming cashews is another way to get your zinc hit.
In addition to bolstering your gut and white blood cells, also consider your skin for cold prevention–after all, it’s your first barrier against bacteria and viruses. Vitamin A is the nutrient to consider here since it plays a major role in keeping skin healthy. Look for foods rich in beta-carotene which your body uses to make Vitamin A. sweet potatoes are our pick since they’re also delicious just about any way they’re prepared. Try them in this mouth watering casserole.