Winter is Coming

Winter is coming, and that means it’s time to battle cold season again.  It is recommended to get a flu shot, but if you’re one to shy away from a needle, there are ways to naturally boost your immune system to help fight off influenza.  There are 5 different foods that can help you in your quest to stay healthy this winter:

1) Yogurt – The healthy “live active cultures” in yogurt, or probiotics, help keep the intestines healthy and aid in the digestion of food.  Two six-ounce servings of yogurt a day is all you need to help strengthen your immune system.  “Introducing friendly bacteria in the form of probiotics is believed to challenge the immune system in healthy ways,” says Stefano Guandalini, a professor of pediatrics and gastroenterology at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  “Introducing friendly bacteria in the form of probiotics is believed to challenge the immune system in healthy ways.”

When buying yogurt, it is important to look for the “live and active cultures seal” on the container.  This seal lets you know that you’re getting the proper healthy probiotics that your body needs.  Currently in the U.S., only Stonyfield Farms has this seal on their yogurt.

2) Oats & Barley – Based upon a Norwegian study, oats and barley contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan which have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that are more potent than echinacea.  The health benefits of barley, according to the Whole Grains Council, help to lower glucose levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, control blood sugar, and of course, boost the immune system.  One out of three of your daily servings of whole grain should include oats and barley for optimum health.

3) Garlic – In a study published in PubMed, 146 volunteers were given a daily supplemental dose of garlic for a 12-week period.  63% of the participants reduced the number of their colds, while 70% reduced the average length of cold symptoms.  The magic compound in garlic that produces these wonderful results is called Allicin.  Allicin has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, effectively lowering the chances of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and strokes.  Two raw cloves of garlic a day are recommended.

4) Mushrooms – Like oats and barley, mushrooms also contain the beneficial beta-glucan fiber.  “Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection,” says Douglas Schar, DipPhyt, MCPP, MNIMH, director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Washington, DC.  Mushrooms also have selenium, which stimulates the production of T-cells to improve immune response to infection.  At least 1/4 ounce to 1 ounce of mushrooms a few times daily is suggested by experts.

5) Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, and potassium.  A daily serving of just a half-cup of sweet potatoes gives you 40% of your daily vitamin A intake, which is crucial to keeping your skin healthy and strong.  Your skin serves as the first-line of defense against bacteria and viruses, so it is important to keep this vital organ as healthy as possible.  “Vitamin A plays a major role in the production of connective tissue, a key component of skin,” explains Prevention advisor David Katz, MD, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, CT.

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