Here is a selection from the arsenal of protective foods that will keep your sick days down and spirits up.
These fermented foods contain beneficial gut-bacteria that dials-up digestion and the immune system. Be a culture vulture and add a scoop of yogurt to your granola or a dollop to a baked spud. As not all yogurts are created equal, look for those with a mother lode of live cultures, such as lactobacillus or acidophilus.
Goat dairy typically has an added oomph of probiotics. Kefir, a fermented dairy that resembles a yoghurt-type beverage, is slightly sour and refreshing, and packed with antioxidants and billions of colony-forming units. Drink it straight up or blend with fresh berries and a drizzle of agave syrup.
For savory palates, load up on probiotics like a sour dill pickle and a heap of fermented cabbage, aka sauerkraut. Fresh refrigerated sauerkraut trumps jarred or canned with a bigger bang of probiotics. For an Asian riff on sauerkraut, try spicy Kimchi, a Korean staple of fermented cabbage, one of the highest probiotic sources around, also packed with Vitamins A, stress-balancing B and antioxidant C.
If you have a yen for Japanese cuisine, miso soup, made from fermented soybean paste, balances digestion while adding a dose of immune-boosting lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria. Or do Tempeh, an ancient Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans and shaped in a densely packed patty, much like tofu. A gustatory sponge, tempeh absorbs flavors making it ideal in stews, curries and sauces.
To wash it all down nicely, Kombucha tea (although enjoyed for centuries) has been lauded as a new favorite refresher to boost energy, provide a sense of wellbeing, and jack up the immune system. A culture of yeast and bacteria is blended with the sweetened tea to provide a fermented cup of fizzy full-bodied flavor.
Crank up your consumption of foods packed with vitamins C, D and E. Oranges, pineapple, kiwi and especially mellow yellow lemons, are loaded with the mighty C warrior.
For less acidic choices do broccoli, bell peppers and cabbage. Leafy greens give a shot of Vitamin D to ward off invading viruses and bacteria, while sunflower seeds and almonds pack a load of immune and energy boosting Vitamin E.
Pomegranates and blueberries are dual-purpose weapons, protecting cells from oxidation, while boosting precious immune system.
Traditional Chinese healers recognized the healthful properties of mushrooms for thousands of years. Considered “immuno-modulators,” mushrooms contain bioactive compounds that can amazingly dial-up a weak immune system compromised in its ability to fight infections, or widdle down an over-active one.
Shiitake, Maitake and Reishi are immune-boosting fungal rock stars, so add them generously to soups, stews, risottos, omelets, marinara sauces, toss them grilled with baby greens, or smother them between flaky layers of puff pastry for a divine ‘shroom strudel.
To ward off viruses, bacteria, inflammation, scratchy throats, colds and creatures of the night like mosquitoes and the occasional vampire, eat a smashed clove of raw garlic with your buttered toast about once a week on one of your stay-at-home days.
Raw garlic is loaded with allicin, a potent sulfur compound that has been credited with having the power of killing 23 types of bacteria along with assorted viruses (and endowing garlic with its infamous odor). Garlic also contains Vitamins A, B6 and C, selenium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc and flavonoids making this “stinky rose” a powerhouse antioxidant and immune booster.
A recent study from Norway has shown that oats and barley are loaded with beta-glucan, a super antioxidant and antimicrobial fiber to amp up immunity. It’s be found to trump even the mighty cold and flu warrior Echinacea, so whip up a bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal with a splash of almond milk and sprinkling of Vitamin C packed dried cherries, toss some oats in your cookie dough, meatballs and stuffings. Do a barley tabouli, risotto or hearty soup with mushrooms for a double dose of immunity.
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