Fend Off the Flu! 6 Immune-Boosting Foods

Now that we're in the midst of cold and flu season, every sneeze threatens to leave us cooped up in bed for weeks. Protect yourself (and your family) with these foods recognized for their immune-boosting powers. Plus, super-simple ways to eat them every day.

Yogurt parfaitYogurt

Studies show that live-culture yogurts are powerful immune-boosters. The good bacteria in yogurt stimulate the production of immunoglobulin A, which protects the body against pathogens.

Look for: Yogurts with "live active cultures" and avoid brands with lots of added sugars.

Try it for...an easy weekday breakfast: Granola-Yogurt Parfait

Blueberries Blueberry pancakes

Blueberries are rich in vitamins A and C, which help strengthen your immune system. Heart-healthy bonus: a Harvard study that followed 100,000 women over a 20-year period found that those who ate more than three servings of blueberries or strawberries a week were less likely to suffer a heart attack.

Look for: Bright, beautiful berries. The anthocyanins that give blueberries their vibrant color promote heart health.

Make it for...a Sunday brunch: Blueberry Pancakes with Warm Blueberry Sauce

Mushrooms

One study showed that athletes who took a supplement of beta-glucan, a substance found in mushrooms, had higher levels of infection-fighting "killer" immune system cells. These athletes reported less sniffles and coughs than their peers who had not taken the supplement. Luckily, you don't need to be an athlete to reap the benefits--try adding mushrooms to your regular diet.

Look for: Shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Both contain beta-glucans, which have an immune-stimulating effect.

Make it for...a luncheon with the ladies: Mushroom and Cheese Tart

Sweet potato mashSweet Potatoes

The beta-carotene found in sweet potatoes and other orange-colored veggies, like carrots and squash, supports the growth of important immune system cells. According to some researchers, beta-carotene may even help prevent certain types of cancer.

Look for: Orange-colored sweet potatoes. Beta-carotene gives these root veggies their signature color.

Try it in...a savory side dish: Roasted Garlic-Root Vegetable Mash

Garlic

Garlic scares away more than just vampires-it also keeps the common cold at bay. Researchers found that taking a garlic supplement not only lowered participants' chances of catching a cold, but it also sped up recovery time once they came down with one.

Add it to...a delicious mash, recipe above, for a double-dose of immune-boosting garlic and sweet potato.

Tea Walnut biscotti

Researches believe that tea may prime the immune system to recognize harmful pathogens. One Harvard study found that sipping 5 small cups of black tea a day helped keep participants healthy.

Enjoy it with...something sweet and crunchy: Walnut Biscotti

GranolaAlmonds

Research shows that certain chemicals found in the skin of almonds boost white blood cells' ability to detect viruses. Plus, whole almonds make a great workday snack, especially when added to your favorite trail mix!

Look for: Whole almonds with skin intact. Blanched almonds, which have the skin removed, do not contain the effective chemicals.

Try it in...a good-for-you granola: Cranberry-Almond Granola

-By Katie Holdefehr

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