14 Foods That Fight Illness

Six pioneering doctors share their favorite recipes for foods that fight illness naturally—no drugstore needed.

Foods That Fight Illness

Naturally boost immune function with foods that fight illness.

Photo by Thomas Gibson

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Enterovirus, ebola, swine flu—it seems as if every year there is a new crop of illnesses to worry about. Although it can be easy to fret when cold and flu season comes around, our best defense is in keeping our bodies strong with the power of a healthy diet. We have known about the healing powers of food since at least the time of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Foods That Fight Illness

Sautéed Wild Mushrooms Recipe
Spicy Mussels Recipe with Kale
Pomegranate Kale Salad Recipe
Ginger-Carrot Soup Recipe
Elderberry Cough Syrup Recipe
Essential Herbal Elixir Recipe for Immune Health

It’s interesting that the father of Western medicine promoted an idea that it seems many Western medical practitioners—often quicker to prescribe drugs than lifestyle habits—now seem to have lost a connection with. (Hippocrates also said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.”)

The medical professionals included in this article all stand with Hippocrates’ wise counsel, and so they offer you a proactive prescription for winter illnesses in the form of delicious recipes and useful kitchen tips. Happy cooking, and here’s to your health!

5 Food-Based Tips for a Strong Immune System

1. Eat garlic, onions, ginger & lots of spices (such as oregano, turmeric, cinnamon and sage). Add spices and herbs to soups, stews, casseroles, meats and vegetables, as well as bean dips and sauces. Garlic and onions offer wide-spectrum antimicrobial properties.

2. Eat many servings of colorful fruits and vegetables high in vitamins A, C and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes and squashes. Aim for three to four servings of fruits and four or more servings of vegetables daily.

3. Drink plenty of fluids, especially warm fluids. With drier air inside and out, winter can be a particularly challenging time to stay hydrated. Consuming adequate fluids supports all of our bodies’ functions, including the immune system. Make soups and broths (from scratch with fresh vegetables is always best) and have them throughout the week. Drink teas made from warming herbs such as ginger and echinacea daily. Keep filtered water with you at all times. Avoid concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages, as the sugar content is harmful for the immune system.

4. Avoid simple sugars as much as possible. This includes sweet treats and desserts but also the white flour and refined grain products that turn into sugar quickly. Studies have shown that refined sugars can suppress our immune systems for hours after ingested.

5. Have protein with each meal. Proteins are the building blocks of the body. This includes our immune and detoxification systems. Organic, clean and lean animal protein as well as plant-based (legumes, nuts/seeds) proteins are important to include in each meal and snack.