Cold and flu season is in full swing, and even if you received a flu shot that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in the clear. According to health officials, the vaccine is only about 50-60% effective in preventing the flu. Therefore, why not consider strengthening your immune system with 5 foods to boost immunity? While the risks run high this season, here are some natural ways to help keep the flu at bay:
You may not consider fermented foods such as Kimchee, Kefir, or Sauerkraut to be the most delicious, especially if you’re not accustomed to the flavor. But tastes aside, fermented foods are loaded with probiotics that support healthy bacteria in the gut. In his book Super Immunity, Dr. Joel Fuhrman states, “Seventy percent of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract, and the microflora (the bacterial population) of the GI tract constitute a complex ecosystem that can be viewed as an organ of the body.” The intestinal microflora help break down food, produces vitamins, and strengthen the immune system. If fermented foods aren’t your thing, opt for a probiotic supplement. An article on Natural News’ website states, “A quality probiotic supplement will contain at least several strains of probiotics and no less than 10 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units) per gram.”
The potent smell a garlic bulb elicits is related to its powerful defense against the common cold and flu. Garlic has sulfur containing compounds alicin, allin and dithins, which knock out bacteria and infection. Raw garlic is best, as raw foods keep all natural enzymes intact, but cooking with garlic is a more practical option. In order to enhance the health properties, expert George Matejan recommends letting it sit after you've chopped it or crushed it. “If you give your chopped/crushed garlic time to sit before changing its temperature (through cooking) or its pH (through the addition of acidic food like lemon juice), it will give the alliinase enzymes in garlic an opportunity to work on behalf of your health.”
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids essential for good health, but also high in Vitamin D, which helps produce hundreds of antimicrobial peptides in the body that kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Just 3.5 oz. of salmon delivers 360 IU of Vitamin D. According to health expert Dr. Mercola, “In the United States, the late winter average vitamin D level is only about 15-18 ng/ml, which is considered a very serious deficiency state. It’s estimated that over 95 percent of U.S. senior citizens may be deficient, along with 85 percent of the American public.” The recommended daily allowance is set according to age. For those 1-70 years old, 600 IU daily; for those 71 and older, 800 IU daily; and for pregnant and lactating women, 600 IU daily. To prevent the flu higher dosages are recommended. Mercola recommends 35 IU of vitamin D per pound of body weight. If you’re not into seafood you could include whole organic eggs, milk, or a Vitamin D supplement to your diet arsenal of weapons to combat the cold and flu.
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is converted to monolaurin; the same compound in breast milk that enhances an infant’s immunity. Lauric acid helps the body produce antiviral and antimicrobial substances for protection. Coconut oil may be high in saturated fats, but it’s a different kind of fat. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs can be efficiently metabolized in the liver compared to long-chain triglycerides, which are more likely to be stored as fat. A study in the Journal of Nutrition has found that MCTs can increase metabolism and energy expenditure, so you won’t necessarily have to put on a few extra pounds to ward off the flu.
Spirulina, a single-celled blue-green algae can help detoxify the body and boost immunity. All plant-based foods like spirulina contain chlorophyll, also known as “plant blood.” For plants, chlorophyll converts sunlight into energy to support life. For humans, chlorophyll can help rid the body of harmful toxins and promote an increase in oxygen levels. Spirulina is rich in phycocyanin, a pigment protein, which gives algae its blue-green hue. Phycocyanins have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They not only improve immune cell function, but also increase the number of immune cells. Eric Gershwin conducted a study at the University of California at Davis. Participants who supplemented with spirulina for 12 weeks experienced improved immune function. An added bonus is that spirulina is a rich source of the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that operates differently than common omega-6 fatty acids such as linoleic acid, because GLA helps fight inflammation rather than promote it.