Whether you’re pro flu shot or against, whether you lean toward the swine flu shot or the regular flu shot it’s hard to escape the concern over this season’s bugs. Rather than panicking about the flu, why not take action to keep yourself and your family healthy? After all, the best defense may be to protect yourself from the inside out. We’ve found, on our Market Foodtraining tours, participants are very curious about natural flu-fighters, so we’re sharing our 4 favorites:
1. White Tea
Everyone knows about black tea and more recently green tea but if you’re interested in immunity white tea is your beverage. White tea is much less processed than green tea and this results in a higher antioxidant content; white tea is a better bacteria and virus fighter than other teas. It’s also lower in caffeine and less bitter than green tea. Do not add milk to your tea though, casein a protein in milk binds to some of the phytochemicals and makes the tea less effective. Try for 2-4 cups a day. I love the Republic of Tea and Harney brands.
2. Red Bell Peppers
Chances are when you think of foods high in Vitamin C you think citrus fruits. Red peppers actually have more than double the Vitamin C of a large orange. Vitamin C is important because it increases levels of interferon. Interferon is an antibody that coats cell surfaces (think of it like cell armor) preventing the entry of viruses. Vitamin C is also found in broccoli, parsley, kiwi and melon. Aim for 2 fruits and 2 vegetables per day as many fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
If you still have your pumpkins, do not toss the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc. Zinc is needed to make the immune system’s t cells and zinc increases our number of white blood cells. Zinc is actually not common in many fruits and vegetables so you can eat a healthy diet and not get enough zinc. Zinc is abundant in many animal foods so vegetarians, in particular, need to seek out sources of zinc. Oysters, crab and legumes are other non-meat zinc sources.
If you are pumpkin-less you can purchase pumpkin seeds, I really like a brand called Gerbs.
4. Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and Kefir contain probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that live in our intestines and support our immune systems. Our digestive tract is actually our largest immune organ and what goes on in there is a good indication of what is going on with your immunity in general. Probiotics occur in other naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, natural pickles and miso.Look for yogurts with lactobacillus or bifidobacteria on the ingredient panel, there’s also a great kid’s product called Pro Bugs.
And finally watch alcohol and sugar, each of these makes you more vulnerable to the flu. As little as a couple of tablespoons of sugar can decrease immune function by 40 percent!
What are your favorite immune boosters? Any tricks you’d like to share?