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Undoubtedly winter brings in its wake an array of common health ailments. It is wise to fuel your diet with nutrients rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber that ward off infectious germs in winter months.
These foods help to maintain and strengthen your immune system. Following are winter foods that will please your palate and give your health a boost. 

Citrus fruits

Grapefruits, oranges, tangerines and naartjies are some of the healthiest winter foods which help keep you strong. These fruits are rich in protective nutrients such as vitamin C and bioflavonoids that help to ward off winter colds and flu.
Besides these substances, citrus fruits also contain an impressive list of other essential nutrients, including glycemic and non-glycemic carbohydrate (sugars and fiber), potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and a variety of phytochemicals.
   
Vitamin C acts as the "glue" in the body that holds your cells together and keeps them strong so that they can fight viruses and bacteria that may enter the body. Bioflavonoids are a group of plant components that have been shown to help the immune system, also by protecting the cells of the body.

Probiotic foods

Probiotic supplements and foods, like yoghurt and tempeh (a dish made from split soybeans and water), are live and active cultures of the "good" bacteria that occur naturally in the intestinal tract of healthy human beings. The good bacteria compete with harmful bacteria in the GI tract for food and prevent them from wreaking havoc in the body. In winter, we need to boost our probiotic intake as it helps to increase one's resistance to diseases such as cancer and gastrointestinal infection. It is advised to include low-fat yoghurts that contain the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains in your diet every day. Also it is good to include fiber-rich foods in your diet, as fiber acts as "food" for the friendly bacteria in your gut.

Pumpkin family

Butternut, pumpkins and squash are great sources of beta-carotene, one of the most powerful antioxidants in our winter arsenal. Broccoli is low in calories, high in fiber and provides the most concentrated package of disease-busting carotenoids.
They break down in the body to form vitamin A. Vitamin A helps the proteins that regulate cell-to-cell communication, which is the foundation of the immune system. Vitamin A also aids in cancer prevention, because cell-to-cell communication breakdown is one of the primary causes of cancer. Research suggests that vitamin A may help keep the respiratory system healthy, which is particularly helpful when you have a cold or the flu.
Butternut and other types of pumpkin can be added to hearty winter stews and soups, or can be served on the side.

Garlic

Garlic is a pungent herb also has antibacterial and antiviral effects, and seems to be particularly useful in terms of chest infections. Allicin, a chemical found in this aromatic bulb, appears to deactivate viruses (particularly cold and flu), fungi and many bacteria. It contains selenium which increases the number of immunity cells in the body.

Garlic can also produce cancer-fighting interferon in the body. It is also known to lower unhealthful LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk for heart disease. Most of its benefits can be reaped when eaten raw and in large amounts: half a kilogram of garlic foods a week, or one-third teaspoon of powdered garlic a day.

Mushroom

Mushrooms enhance immune response by boosting the production of white blood cells. It brings vitality to the cells by increasing cellular metabolism, removing toxins and preventing free radical damage. Mushrooms are rich in a number of B-vitamins, vitamin C and zinc all of which can help boost the immune system. The varieties known as Reichi, Maitake, and Shiitake mushrooms do the most to amp up your immune system.

Also, mushrooms significantly reduce stress and have shown beneficial effects in relieving joint pain and strengthening the skeletal and neuromuscular systems of the body. An added advantage is that mushrooms are fairly low in calories and can be eaten freely. They serve as an incredible addition to stews and soups.

Broccoli

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and turnip, are valuable sources of vitamins A, C and E. Broccoli contains the properties of 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM), a chemical produced from the compound indole-3-carbinol when broccoli is chewed and digested. DIM is effective in boosting the immune response for our body (especially during winters when immune systems are low) that defends the body against infections from many kinds of cancer and virus.

It is low in calories and is a doubly powerful food as it contains over 150 health promoting phytochemicals such as sulfurophane, known for its cancer protective powers.  Experts recommend consuming at least one cruciferous vegetable, 1/2 cup such as broccoli on a daily basis. 

Chicken soup

Chicken is a good source of selenium and vitamin E, the antioxidants that can boost immunity. Hot chicken soup blocks the migration of inflammatory white cells because cold symptoms are a response to the cells' accumulation in the bronchial tubes. The amino acid cysteine, released from chicken during cooking, chemically resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine, which explains the results. The soup's salty broth keeps mucus thin the same way as cough medicines. Added spices, such as garlic and onions, can increase soup's immune-boosting power.

Green tea

Tea has many health benefits ranging from possible cancer prevention to lowering the risk for overweight. Now, research also shows that tea might boost immunity. Tea is rich in polyphenols as well as a number of other chemicals that can help protect the body against cold or flu. Green tea may help the body's immune system respond better when fighting infection, by boosting the disease-fighting capacity of gamma delta T cells.

Green tea is loaded with powerful antioxidants which protect against cell damage that leads to aging, and helps prevent heart disease and cancer. Some studies highlight a compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells without harming healthy tissues.

Fish

Fish is a rich source of zinc and the omega-3 fatty acids, both of which boost health in winter. Zinc increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps your body to fight diseases more aggressively. Salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich in omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation, increasing airflow and protecting lungs from colds and respiratory infections.

Many people are more susceptible to depression in the colder months. But a growing number of studies show that omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in preventing and lifting depression.

Blueberries

Blueberries boost the effectiveness of vitamin C, a major strengthener of the immune system and decrease the production of inflammation. They manage the stress on the immune system by being free radical scavengers, leaving the immune system to protect your body from the formation and growth of cancer cells. Blueberries contain anthocyanins and other antioxidant pigments and phytochemicals, which may have a role in reducing the risks of some diseases including cancer.

Boosting the immune system becomes very important as winter colds and flu looms. And the foods listed above boost your immune system and help you stay healthy.

  • generalmedicine.suite101.com/article.cfm/immune_smart_foods
  • www.health24.com/dietnfood/The_immune_system/15-3853-3861,36164.asp
  • www.articlesbase.com/supplements-and-vitamins-articles/strengthen-immunity-part-i-how-to-boost-your-immune-system-with-foods-537048.html

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