Winter brings more in the way of viral infections. Being inside more allows the spread of germs faster, and this season the news is filled with troubling stories about rampant influenza. This time of year it is important to focus on using foods to improve your body's natural defenses. What foods can improve immunity?
Mushrooms are an under utilized immunity booster. They may be added to other foods or eaten alone. It is important to remember mushrooms take on the flavor of seasonings and other foods cooked with them. Research shows mushrooms increase white blood cell activity making them more aggressive — a much needed advantage to fight infections. Not a big fan of mushrooms? Finely chop two to three whole mushrooms and add it to whatever you are cooking for immunity boost.
Fish is a source of several important nutrients. Selenium found in fish helps white blood cells to produce proteins that clear flu viruses out of the body. Add the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega-3s found in fish and increase airflow while protecting lungs from respiratory infections. Additionally, the vitamin D reduces viral risks, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Research at the University of Nebraska has proven mom's chicken soup is packed with immunity benefit. With the correct seasonings, chicken soup offers mucus thinning, anti-inflammation and boosts for general defenses against viral infections.
If you are a tea drinker (black or green), you have more interferon in your blood, according to a Harvard study. This improves your ability to fight off viruses. Hold the added sugar please or you can undermine the health benefits of tea.
The University of Vienna in Austria has shown live culture yogurt (7 oz. daily) will also improve the immune system. A bonus is the cultures can also improve intestinal health. In addition, a Norwegian study has shown beta-glucan found in oats and barley reduce influenza, improve immunity and even speeds wound healing. Adding barley to a favorite soup is an easy option to fight back this viral season.
Focus on beta-carotene rich foods to super power immunity. Orange veggies — sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin carrots — are packed with beta-carotene to fight bacteria and viruses. Likewise, don't overlook the benefits of green veggies. Did you know that a cup of broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange? It also contains a variety of B-vitamins needed to keep your immune system strong. Not a fan of broccoli? Try it as a soup instead. This cold and flu season fight back with increased immunity from foods.
Dr. Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.