Food as Medicine: 5 Nutrient-Packed Foods to Combat Flu & Virus Season
The days might be getting longer, but they certainly aren’t getting warmer, and the cooler months are when flu, viruses, and colds peak. If you want to protect yourself this winter, here are a few foods that will keep your immunity strong.
This well-know succulent is often called upon for its uses in beauty, but few are aware of its potent immunity boosting powers. The mannose polysaccharides found is fresh aloe vera are part of a family of essential glyconutrients that the body uses to maintain a healthy immune system. These mannose clusters are powerhouses when it comes to fighting bacteria, fungus, viruses, and parasites. You can often buy fresh aloe vera from the health food store or plant market, but it also comes in supplement form.
Camu Camu Berries
When you think vitamin C, you probably think of a big juicy orange, but in fact, you should be thinking camu camu. Camu camu is native to the South American tropical rainforest and contains more vitamin C than any other known botanical source. They may contain up to 4 percent vitamin C, whereas your typical citrus fruit would about about .5 percent. Because of its unusually high percentage of vitamin C, it’s great for supporting the immune system and warding off illness. This little berry is also full of calcium, potassium, iron, amino acids, thiamin, and niacin. It has long been used as an Amazonian beauty secret too! I like Navitas Natural Camu Powder and will mix it into coconut yogurt or a glass of water with a natural sweetener.
I first encountered noni, a Polynesian superfruit, on a recent hiking trip in Hawaii where they littered the trail. They look like alien potatoes and the smell can be quite repulsive, but don’t let that fool you. The taste is distinct and quite delicious and when it comes to boosting immunity, they’re hard to beat. Like aloe vera, they contain long-chain polysaccharides. In Noni, these polysaccharides boost the immune system by stimulating white blood cells, which are essential for good health and protection against disease. When I got back to New York, I tried the 100% pure Virgin Noni Juice. You can drink it alone or mix into your morning smoothie.
When I was in my early twenties, I got sick with Epstein Barr and I literally wanted to sleep for 24 hours a day. My naturopathic doctor recommend I take reishi mushrooms. Eager to get better and stay awake for more than two hours at a time, I looked high and low for this curious fungi. Well, no wonder they call it a “superherb” because it had me back to my former vitality in no time. It has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years and can help improve the functioning of the immune system by protecting our bodies from bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and even mold. I regularly take a mushroom blend for immune support such as Metagenics® Mycotaki supplement.
I’m not talking about the shredded coconut with added sugar that you’ll find in the baking section of your local supermarket, I’m talking about a fresh coconut. If you don’t live in the tropics and can’t pick one straight from the tree, most health food stores sell young Thai coconuts that are a healthy alternative. The saturated fatty acids help to fight viruses, bacteria, and an overgrowth of fungus. Additionally, they may help improve the absorption of fat-soluable vitamins and amino acids, ensuring your immune system is in tip-top shape.
Amina AlTai is a health coach, personal trainer, and wellness marketing professional in NYC. Follow her on instagram at @busyhappyhealthy