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11-17-2008, 09:31 PM #1
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Foods That Boost Your Immune System
By Dustin Driver
Your grandma wasn’t far off when she said, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Certain foods, including apples, harbor potent nutrients, minerals and organic compounds that can supercharge your immune system and help fight off disease. Throw enough of them down your gullet and you might just be able to avoid the doctor's office this flu season. The following foods can fuel your immune system, make you healthier and help your body fight infections.
Roman soldiers used to gobble down chunks of garlic before battle. They believed the pungent plant infused them with courage and heroic strength. While chomping on raw garlic cloves won’t give you superhuman powers, it may help your immune system defeat bacterial, viral and even fungal infections.
Garlic contains allicin, ajoene and thiosulfinates -- three powerful compounds that help the body prevent and fight infections. The compounds are so strong that consuming raw garlic juice is nearly as effective as Neosporin is for disinfecting minor wounds. When applied to the skin, garlic beats topical creams like Tinactin and other antifungal agents in fighting athlete’s foot. Evidence has been documented suggesting that people who consume large quantities of garlic on the onset of a cold will reduce the amount of time it takes them to heal.
How to eat it: Add some fresh garlic to your pasta sauce or your stir fry. Try to eat a few cloves a week, but keep it to a few -- you don’t want to smell like garlic bread. A good thing to remember is that garlic is more potent (and has a stronger flavor) the more you mash it.
Allicin is produced when garlic cells are crushed, so using a garlic presser is the easiest way to squeeze the compound out of the clove. Also, allicin, ajoene and thiosulfinates are very unstable in that they degrade with time, so keep in mind that jarred-up, pre-chopped garlic contains less of the chemicals than freshly-crushed garlic.
Bugs Bunny rarely came down with the flu, and for good reason. Carrots, his food of choice, contain loads of beta carotene, which is a powerful phytonutrient that boosts the immune system’s production of infection-fighting natural killer cells and T cells. These cells are healthy and attack and kill off disease-ridden microbes.
Carrots also contain falcarinol, a super compound that has shown great promise as an anti-cancer agent. Scientists at Newcastle University's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development recently found that rats that were fed raw carrots had a one-third lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. So the next time you’re in the supermarket, reach for that jumbo bag of baby carrots and you'll never have to say, "What's up Doc?" because you won't be needing any doctors.
How to eat it: To take full advantage of the health effects provided by carrots, eat them fresh and raw. Cooked carrots are still good for you, but heat can destroy some of the beta carotene and falcarinol compounds in them. How many carrots should you eat to reap the benefits? Replace your daily snack of pretzels or chips with baby carrots. Try to munch about a half a cup of carrots a day, maybe a tad more.
Ingesting live bacteria might not seem like the best way to stay healthy, but, on the contrary, your body needs certain bacteria to function properly. Lactobacillus acidophilus is an example of good bacteria that your body needs, because it produces lactic acid in your gut, which helps you digest food and break down complex compounds into usable bits.
Without acidophilus and a few other friendly bacteria, we wouldn’t be able to absorb many nutrients at all and our immune systems would shut down. Additionally, acidophilus actively fights disease-causing bacteria like salmonella and shigella-caused dysentery, it helps rid various types of diarrhea and it even helps fight viral infections.
Another strain of friendly bacteria, Bifidobacterium lactis, has been shown to boost immune system response in the elderly. Researchers in New Zealand found that those who ate the bacteria had higher counts of immune T cells, helper cells and killer cells in their bloodstreams, which all help fight off sickly cells in the body.
How to eat it: Yogurt with live bacterial cultures in it is a fantastic source of acidophilus and bifidobacterium lactis. Try to eat some every day, preferably a low-fat variety with little sugar (mixed-fruit and vanilla yogurts are loaded with excess calories). A serving of yogurt is usually about one cup. When buying yogurt, read the container to make sure it contains live cultures, specifically, acidophilus.
Oysters aren’t just good for your libido. The gelatinous mollusks contain tons of zinc, which is one of the best immune system boosters out there. The element helps white blood cells and other antibodies reproduce more quickly, and it makes them more aggressive so they're better at fighting off infections. Zinc is vital for general cell function and it stimulates about 100 different enzymes that promote chemical reactions in your body.
If that wasn’t enough to get you sucking back these slimy creatures, zinc also prevents bacterial and viral growth directly, either by poisoning the infectious agents or encouraging immune reaction at the site of infection.
Zinc deficiency, even when moderate, can depress immune system function. Severe deficiency can shut the immune system down completely, so if you’ve never tried oysters, there’s no better time to start than now.
How to eat it: One serving of oysters (about six medium oysters) contains approximately 76 milligrams of zinc. Doctors estimate that the average guy needs between 15 grams and 25 grams a day to stay healthy, but if you’re feeling a cold coming on, the oyster bar might not be such a bad idea. Consuming just a few oysters a week can drastically boost your levels of zinc. But be careful: Consuming too much zinc can be toxic. An excess of the element suppresses copper and iron absorption, which could make you anemic. Consult your doctor before drastically boosting your zinc consumption.
If you can’t stomach oysters, try crab, beef, dark turkey meat or beans. All contain moderate amounts of zinc -- between 1.8 and 7 milligrams per serving.
food for medicine:
Forget taking medicine, supplements or antibiotics to maintain your health -- your body is designed to absorb the medicinal properties found in food. To keep your immune system running like clockwork, eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and stay away from junk food. Get a little exercise to sweat the toxins out and to get your blood flowing so that all the immune-boosting nutrients you consume can filter properly through your system. Eating Healthy food plays a huge part in leading a healthy lifestyle. Adding the aforementioned foods to your diet will help you fight colds and infections so you can feel your best.
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