Simply staying home and away from other human beings is probably the best way to keep yourself from catching anything this cold and flu season, but for most people that is neither a practical option nor even a desirable one.
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It’s impossible to ensure that you won’t pick up a cold germ or flu virus this winter, but you can arm yourself for when you do.
One of the simplest and most surprising is to amp up the immune-boosting power of your diet with a few delicious additions.
1. Spice It Up
Many herbs and spices contain compounds that can help support your immune system. They don’t offer the same level of protection that a flu vaccine does, but if you are generally healthy, they will give you a little help to stay that way.
Turmeric has long been used as both a seasoning and a health aid in both Chinese and Ayurveda medicine. The volatile oils in turmeric are anti-inflammatory agents, with the most powerful being curcumin, the substance that gives turmeric its bright color.
Ground turmeric has a peppery flavor that is warm and slightly bitter. It is most often seen in curries, but a dash of turmeric livens up and complements almost any soup or stew. Mustard also contains curcumin, so try adding it to sandwiches instead of, or in addition to, mayonnaise.
Oregano is another savory super-herb. Used most often in Italian dishes because it perfectly matches with tomato sauces, oregano contains high levels of anti-oxidants such as vitamin E.
These help to fight the free radicals that can damage your cells, leading to certain types of cancers as well as some of the less attractive signs of aging. Oregano also helps your body fight infections and one of its primary compounds, carvacrol, is a proven antimicrobial agent.
2. Celebrate The Stinking Rose
Fresh garlic contains allicin, a natural antibiotic as well as an anti-fungal. Natural healers have been using fresh garlic for centuries to treat skin infections, rashes and even athlete’s foot.
Allicin does not occur naturally in fresh, raw garlic. In order to produce it, you have crush or finely chop the cloves. The more you crush or chop them, the more allicin you will bring out.
The best way to do this is to lay a knife blade flat on top of one clove of garlic and smack it sharply. Lift away the paper-like skin and use the sharp edge of the knife to chop the crushed clove finely. Repeat with as many garlic cloves as your recipe calls for.
Do this one clove at a time, because if you try to crush several at once they tend to shoot out from under the knife blade.
Allicin is easily destroyed, so add fresh garlic at the very end of your cooking time, remembering that the closer to raw your garlic is, the stronger its flavor will be.
3. Love Your Lactobacillus
Probiotics is a word you may have been hearing a lot in certain advertisements for yogurt, and with good reason. Your digestive system depends on a delicate balance of healthy microbes that support healthy digestion and elimination.
Probiotics are active, living “good” bacteria that help balance the harmful bacteria that can grow in your gut in unhealthy numbers due to a diet high in processed foods, or because you have accidentally killed off many of the good bacteria through the use of antibiotics.
Eating yogurt that contains active probiotics, such as lactobacillus, is one way to help restore the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. Feeding the good bacteria with lots of fiber and whole grains can also help to keep your digestive tract healthy, which can help you fight off colds and infections.