Feel like you’re coming down with something this winter? You’re not alone, but there’s good news: There are quite a few tasty, healing superfoods that can speed up your recovery and get you back on your feet in no time.
Tomatoes energize germ killers.
A warm bowl of tomato soup is comforting when you’re under the weather — and it can speed recovery too! University of Illinois researchers say the compound that gives tomatoes their vibrant red hue (lycopene) energizes germ-killing immune cells called macrophages, cutting cold symptoms by 40 percent and helping you feel better three days faster.
More good news: You’ll absorb three times more lycopene from cooked tomato products than from the raw fruit.
Bell peppers curb cortisol.
Add a heaping cup of colorful bell peppers to your daily diet, and you’ll bounce back twice as quickly from viral infections, say Norwegian researchers. Thanks goes to the sweet veggie’s rich stores of vitamin C and plant compounds (flavonoids) that work together to calm the adrenal glands, reducing their production of the immunity-weakening stress hormone cortisol.
Apricots heal sinus tissue.
Their orange pigment (beta-carotene) strengthens and speeds healing of the mucous membranes lining your nose and sinuses. No wonder Stanford University researchers say nibbling on two dried apricots daily can trim three days off your recovery time, plus they cut your risk of a sinus infection by as much as 65 percent.
Here’s a pro tip: Dice apricots and add them to oatmeal, fruit crisps, or rice pilaf. Or, top toasted bagels with cream cheese and apricot jam for instant deliciousness.
Yogurt bolsters GI defenses.
Plain yogurt is rich in probiotic bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus), which stimulates digestive tract production of germ-killing lymphocytes. Enjoy one cup daily, and University of Kansas scientists say you’ll recover 74 percent faster. Prefer nondairy yogurt? Just check the alternative’s label for “live bacterial cultures.”
Garlic boosts antibody production.
Garlic’s sulfur compounds increase the production of virus-killing antibodies by 40 percent — often within 48 hours. Enjoy one clove daily, raw or cooked, and you’ll bounce back four days faster, say scientists in the Journal of Immunology Research.
Hint: Letting chopped garlic rest for 10 minutes before cooking enhances its potency.
Ginger tames inflammation.
You’ll feel better 55 percent faster if you eat 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, half a teaspoon of the dried spice, or two slices of candied ginger daily, say British scientists. They add that ginger tamps down symptom-triggering inflammation better than painkillers. Just broil unpeeled ginger for 45 minutes (turning once) for a milder, slightly sweeter flavor. Let it cool, puree it, and add it to recipes.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.