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Superfoods that Boost Immunity

The Editors at RealAge
Healthy Living
September 18, 2012

Eat fruits and nuts to keep cold and flu bugs at bay.
Eat fruits and nuts to keep cold and flu bugs at bay.

By Michael F. Roizen, MD

Cold and flu season is around the corner, but that doesn't mean you have to stock up on tissues and wait for symptoms to make you miserable. To keep fever, sneezing, runny nose, and other gnarly symptoms at bay, just do a daily 30-minute walk and chow down on these foods to give your immune system a hefty boost.

Use the power of healthful protein. One of protein's many jobs is pumping up your ability to make disease-busting antibodies. Just steer clear of fatty red meats and full-fat dairy foods (they promote heart-hazardous inflammation). Pick up healthy-fat, high-protein foods, such as nonfat dairy, skinless white-meat chicken, ground turkey breast, tofu, fish, and beans.

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Load up on colorful fruits and veggies. Oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, kiwifruit … all are loaded with vitamin C and flavonoids, which help your body churn out protective immune cells. Or take 400 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C three times daily at the first sign of invasion.

Sip hot tea. People who drink 5 cups (about 3 mugs) of black tea daily produce 10 times more virus-fighting interferon than coffee drinkers. It's also full of flavonoids, powerful vitamin-like substances that reduce immune-system aging.

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Go a little nutty. Pumpkin seeds are great year 'round, not just at Halloween, because they contain zinc -- a nutrient that's been shown to help reduce the average length of the common cold. Other seeds -- sesame, flax seed, sunflower -- are also great for fighting off bugs.

Eat yogurt (unpasteurized). Check labels for types that contain the live, active cultures of Lactobacillus acidophilus, a healthy bacterium that helps thwart fungus-related infections. Or take a 20-milligram acidophilus supplement twice daily.

Reach for 100% whole-grain cereals. Oatmeal, shredded wheat, and other whole-grain cereals deliver three nutrients proved to enhance immunity: selenium, zinc, and beta glucan.

Spice up your chicken soup. If you catch something anyway, chicken soup shortens its duration by 50%. One theory about why (there are many): Cooked chicken releases cysteine, an amino acid that's chemically similar to acetylcysteine, a bronchitis drug. Up the soup's knockout punch to cold and flu bugs by tossing in infection-fighting garlic and hot red pepper, which contains capsaicin, a powerful decongestant.

Discover more foods that boost immunity

Michael F. Roizen, MD, is the cofounder of RealAge.com and chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic.

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