Immune Boosters: 9 Wonder Foods

in Food Allergy
Published: January 9, 2014
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As temperatures drop into the frigid range, the good news is that seasonal allergies subside. But for the allergic community, the winter cold and flu season simply means a different challenge: where sneezing left off in early fall, wheezing often steps in.

A viral invasion that impacts the lungs can make sensitive windpipes more reactive, causing an increased propensity for asthma attacks and the need to up your medication. While regular exercise is often prescribed to help the immune system, winter sports also go hand in glove with a higher incidence of asthma exacerbations.

Scientists have yet to stumble upon a magic bullet for keeping viruses at bay, but many are turning to diet as a potential first line of defense. Far from the “superfood” fad of summer berries, pricey powders or top allergens like salmon and almonds, Mother Nature offers her own seasonal grocery list. As Allergic Living discovers, she packs infection-fighting antioxidants in a thicker shell, and provides ample winter stores to help bolster our immune systems right when we need it most.

1. Seasoning Saviors

Your spice cabinet deserves some healthy respect. While black pepper is often dismissed as the “iceberg lettuce” of seasonings, it aids in the absorption of valuable nutrients from other foods such as curcumin, the much-lauded yellowing compound in turmeric.

Curcumin metabolizes quickly, so its potential infection- and cancer-battling benefits are often lost. But a study in India found that the substance piperine in black pepper increased availability of curcumin to the body by up to 2000 percent. Further research has shown that both black pepper and the spice cardamom, could greatly enhance the immune system while activating natural killer cells against certain tumors.

How to Enjoy: Marry fragrant spices in a homemade curry powder.

Combine: 1½ tablespoons coriander seeds,  2 teaspoons turmeric, 1½ teaspoons cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds, ¼ teaspoon whole cloves, ¼ teaspoon ginger powder and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon in a spice grinder, and blend until powdered. Whisk into coconut milk for a quick Indian curry or sprinkle it on popcorn.

Next: Red meat, sunflower seeds, squash and more