January 9, 2013
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting this season's flu outbreak is the most widespread and severe in a decade, with 29 states reporting high activity and 41 states reporting outbreaks. While the number one way to prevent contracting the flu is to get the flu shot, followed by constantly washing your hands with warm soapy water, there are some foods that will help strengthen your immune system, thus decreasing the chances of getting sick and reducing the severity of the symptoms if you do come down with the flu. Vitamin C-Rich Foods: This vitamin strengthens disease-fighting cells, so load up on berries, citrus, sweet potatoes, and melons. Chile peppers like jalapenos and serranos are also vitamin C powerhouses and have the added benefit of clearing your sinuses. This Thai Shrimp Soup with Lemon and Jalapenos is a veritable bowlful of vitamin C. Pro-and-Pre Biotic Foods: We've long heard how important live active cultures are in providing defense against harmful bacteria, and thus have become a nation of yogurt and kefir eaters. Probiotic bacteria is also found in fermented foods like miso and kimchi. What we've heard less about are prebiotic items, which stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria, including bananas, onions, garlic, and asparagus. A delicious way to get your pro-and-prebiotic foods is to make your own yogurt and throw in some sliced bananas. Vitamin D-Rich Foods: Most of us don't get enough vitamin D in our diet, and studies have shown that people deficient in D are more susceptible to the flu, so start by upping dairy. Oily fishes, like salmon, tuna, and sardines are very high in Vitamin D and rich in those good-for-you Omega 3s. Marcella Hazan's Baked Sockeye Salmon with Bell Peppers and Capers is practically a flu shot in delicious edible form. Green Tea: High in catechins, which provide anti-viral resistance, green tea is considered by doctors in both the East and West to be a wonder ingredient. Have a few cups a day or have it in a Green Tea Soy Broth or, yum, green tea ice cream. Chicken Soup: Yes, your grandma was right, chicken soup is good for just about anything, from soul to cells. This penicillin in a bowl actually helps thin and reduce mucus. Make a big batch of Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup and freeze some for another night. For more information and recipes, check out our Six Foods That Fight the Flu.
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