Monday, October 13, 2008

Natural Booster Shots

I hate to say it, but flu season is upon us! Instead of raiding the medicine aisle at CVS, try the following foods - they are some of the best to prevent infection and boost your body's natural defenses:

Photo by Rachel Stone.

Lean beef - Zinc is essential to the development of white blood cells, which are responsible for recognizing and destroying invading bacteria and viruses. Even a slight zinc deficiency can increase your risk of infection, so it is important to get the daily recommended intake of 15 mg. If beef isn't your thing, try zinc-rich oysters, fortified cereals, poultry, yogurt, or milk.

Sweet potatoes - Foods containing beta-carotene are also rich in vitamin A. Why does vitamin A matter? It is important for our skin, which is the first line of defense for our immune system. So think orange: pick up some carrots, squash, pumpkin, or cantaloupe.

Mushrooms - Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive against foreign bacteria. Try shiitake and maitake varieties for the best defense.

Garlic - Garlic contains allicin, ajoene and thiosulfinates -- three powerful compounds that destroy bacteria and inhibit the growth and reproduction of many viruses. Crush one or two cloves of fresh garlic and add it to virtually any dish to fight illness.

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