Immune Boosters: 9 Wonder Foods

in Food Allergy
Published: January 9, 2014
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8. Pungent Powers

The sulfur compounds in garlic do more than ward off your date; they can also launch a potent attack on viruses, fungus, parasites and bacteria. The most well-studied sulfur agent, allicin, impressed in one study with an ability to reduce the frequency and severity of the common cold.

The role of allicin is to protect members of the onion family from pests. It is only released when damage occurs, which is why scientists recommend crushing garlic just prior to consumption to reap the full benefits.

How to Enjoy: Add freshly crushed garlic near the end of cooking or use it raw as a flavor component in dressings. For a multi-use vinaigrette, place ¾ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon freshly crushed garlic, ½ tablespoon maple syrup, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper in a jar. Seal and shake to combine.

9. Friendly Fungus

Medicinal mushrooms have long been prized in Asia for immune-modulating behaviors, and many recent studies have shed light on the reason. Yeast and certain fungi, such as shiitake, maitake and reishi mushrooms, contain beta glucans, carbohydrates that play a role in the balance of the immune system. They prevent excessive activity (suppressing allergies), but conversely also stimulate immune responses when needed to fight infection. A University of Montana study further demonstrated the ability of these beta glucans to suppress cold and flu symptoms.

Medicinal mushrooms are sold fresh and dried but, if unavailable, ordinary crimini mushrooms should not be overlooked. They are a notable source of other immune supporters, including selenium, riboflavin, zinc and vitamin D.

How to Enjoy: Toss dried shiitakes or medicinal mushroom blends in soups or risotto. Fresh versions can be sliced and added to stir-fries or light pastas.