By: Nancy Kalish
This winter, a whopping 20 percent of Americans will come down with a bad case of the flu. But you don’t have to be one of them! Research shows that, in addition to getting your flu shot, eating certain foods can help you avoid the flu -- as well as colds and illness in general. Here’s what to add to your grocery cart.
Probiotics, the healthy bacteria in yogurt, literally crowds out invading bad bacteria that’s trying to get into your system. That’s why, in one study, people who consumed a yogurt drink that contained Lactobacillus reuteri over an 80-day period took 33 percent fewer sick days. To make sure you’re getting a good dose of probiotics, look for the words “live bacteria” and “active cultures” on the label. Bonus: Yogurt is rich in calcium, which is essential for strong, healthy teeth.
This favorite flavor-booster contains allicin, a compound that fights off bacteria. According to a large British study, people who downed a daily garlic capsule for three winter months were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. If they did get sick, they suffered for about four fewer days. Adding cooked garlic to your food might be even more effective.
According to a Harvard study, drinking black or green tea can rev up your immune system’s T cells so they destroy bacteria more quickly. And the antioxidants in green tea are great for your teeth. A large Japanese study found that every cup reduces gum inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in this flavorful fish, help cells remove toxins and take in nutrients more efficiently. And a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who consumed the most omega-3s decreased their risk of gum disease by 22 percent.
Don’t wait until you’re sick to serve up some soup. Cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking, helps calm the usual over-the-top response your immune system has to cold germs that causes many of the worst symptoms from a stuffed-up nose to a wracking cough. And it doesn’t have to be homemade. A University of Nebraska study published in Chest found that most supermarket brands prevented and alleviated cold symptoms just as effectively.
Nancy Kalish is a certified health coach, and an editor and writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has covered health, nutrition and oral health for Prevention, Health, SELF, Real Simple, The New York Times, Completely You and more.
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