Let food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.

-Hippocrates

As we digest the foods we eat, they create powerful chemical reactions in our bodies – just like over-the-counter or prescription drugs. What we eat not only gives (or takes) energy away from us, but the food we consume literally helps to create the cells, blood, muscles and bones that make us who we are. Certain foods are known to be powerful enough to fight off cancer. Others have been found to protect us against heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. So when it comes to cold and flu season and trying to keep the sniffles at bay, it goes without saying that healthy foods can be your best ally for a healthy winter ahead.

With that being said, here are my top picks for immune-boosting foods that will keep you feeling great all season long:

Eat your colors:

Oodles of Orange: Winter squash (like butternut, acorn, and pumpkins) pack a one-two punch of antioxidants and immune boosting compounds to help ward off illness. And sweet potatoes, packed with beta-carotene and vitamin C, do a great job helping you fight off colds and infections.

Go Green: 1 serving of kale has almost as much vitamin C as an orange, but with the addition of cancer-fighting compounds, megadoses of calcium, and loads of vitamins A & K. That adds up to a powerful green that helps protect your immune system from invaders.

Think Pink: Grapefruits are also really high in vitamin C, a known immune-boosting vitamin. But they also help detoxify the liver, which adds another powerful layer of flu-protection. (Overworked, toxified liver = weakened immune system = an opportunity for infection to get in.)

Nutrition-Packed soups:

Not only is soup pure warming comfort on a cold day, but it helps keep you hydrated (that’s especially important during the drying winter) and, depending on what’s in it, can pack an affordable, nutritional wallop. I use soups to get a bunch of antioxidant-rich veggies, beans, garlic, and greens into one pot that I eat from all week long. Here are some of my favorite recipes that I make all winter:

curried red lentil with Swiss chard and chickpeas

-lively up yourself lentil soup

-miso stew

-mulligatawny

Drink Tea

Research shows that L-theanine, an amino acid found in black, green, oolong, and pekoe teas, does a fantastic job of helping our bodies fight off illness.

A recent British study showed that those who drank 5 small cups of tea per day were able to fight off infection better than those who didn’t (or those who drank coffee, instead). Researchers found that the tea drinkers had up to five times the amount of anti-bacterial proteins in their blood than the non-tea drinkers or coffee drinkers. Just watch out for the caffeine content – decaffeinated tea will keep sickness at bay without the major buzz.

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