The flu is hitting hard this year and unless you can talk the boss into letting you work in quarantine, there seems to be no escape from the inevitable. Or is there? Arm yourself with a strong immune system and get ready to evade the plague.  Here are five foods you can add to your diet to naturally boost your immune system and have you ready to fight back! 1) Yogurt and fermented foods. Kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha are filled with naturally occurring probiotics aka healthy bacteria.  How is bacteria going to keep you healthy? Well, this particular bacteria is considered a “good guy,” lining the walls of the digestive tract, and is your first defense in fighting  off the “bad guys.” Higher levels of good bacteria means an increased response of white blood cells in reaction to an intruder. Be sure you pick dairy that is unsweetened and choose krauts and pickles that have been brined, not pickled.

2) Homemade soup. Homemade soups are an age-old remedy for a reason: stocks are nutritious concentrates of bone and vegetable minerals, and once made into a soup, salty broths actually work to thin and break down mucus.  Pack them full of garlic, onions and ginger — all natural anti-microbials — and add shiitake mushrooms, known for their deep immune stimulation.

3) Red peppers. We’ve all heard that citrus contains vitamin C, which is why many people stock up on orange juice when they are sick. But what they don’t know is that this sugary drink is working against them, when they could be getting twice as much vitamin C from red peppers.  A half-cup of red bell peppers contains one and half more vitamin C than the daily requirement, plus they work wonders to protect your skin, which is your first line of defense. Studies show that vitamin C can reduce the length and severity of a cold, so snack away on raw bell peppers throughout the flu season.

4) Orange you glad you’re healthy? Pumpkins and sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Experts have long known that vitamin A plays a big role in fighting infection and maintaining mucosal integrity.  Vitamin A also helps the cells communicate and create a better defense.

5) Surf and turf. Both beef and oysters are among the foods highest in zinc, along with lamb, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and crab. Zinc deficiencies, which leave you open to infection, are often seen in those with high stress, so go ahead and slurp down a dozen oysters after work.  And when you pick up that steak, remember, always choose organic and free range wherever possible.

*Bonus*

Immune boosting supplements should be thought of as two categories of defense: deep immune support and viral attacks.

Preventative: Take herbs like echinacea, reishi mushrooms and astragalus on the daily for deep immune stimulation.

Corrective: Once your sick you need to directly attack the bug that got you down. Try elderberry syrup, silvercillian, viral attack or kick ass immune as a natural anti viral/microbial.