Ready to eat and be merry? First, a word to the wise . . .
Because along with the holiday season comes flu season. And what you eat can impact your immune system health dramatically. It might even determine whether or not you spend a week on the couch fighting the flu instead of celebrating.
But don't worry -we've got you covered here. If you feast right this winter, you'll keep your defenses strong. By getting extra helpings of the 5 immune-supporting foods I mention here, you'll be giving your immune system the nutrition it needs to do its job right.
But before we get into the stellar immune foods, let's start with something you should go light on . . .
Holiday ANTI-Immune Food: Sugar
It's kind of a double whammy . . . Just when the threat of getting sick is at its highest, we get hit with a festive parade of holiday sweets.
Why is this a problem? Sugar drops your immune system down to all-time lows.  It only takes about 75 grams of sugar (about two cans of soda's worth) to decrease your white blood cells ability' to attack and destroy invading bacteria. And even worse, these immune-busting effects last for several hours after you eat the sugar.
So perhaps a modest holiday treat here or there is okay. But beware . . . if you don't exercise some caution with this dangerous sweet stuff, you might find yourself in bed with the flu, unable to enjoy the holidays at all.
Okay, enough said about the bad stuff. Let's move onto the good stuff, starting with . . .
Holiday Immune Food #1: Cranberries
While we usually associate these cheery berries with fighting urinary tract infections, they also have a mounting pile of evidence behind their immune boosting power. Research conducted at the University of Florida at Gainesville Food and Nutrition Institute showed that after just 8 weeks of eating them regularly, these bright little fruits enhanced immune cells and primed them to be ready to defend you. 
Cranberries as sauce, juice or even dried can all give you some of cranberry's immune boosting help. But for best effects, look for recipes with minimal refined sugar, sweetened with other fruits or fruit juices instead.
Holiday Immune Food #2: Squash
Just the sight of squash's bright orange and yellows is enough to make you feel better. But it's not just their looks. Squash is high in beta carotene. Your body turns beta carotene into vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a key role in helping your immune system cells differentiate. In other words, it helps your immune cells develop expert specializations so they can protect you better.
Do you love squash's nutty sweetness so much you could you eat squash all winter long - not just over the holidays? You're in luck! Apparently the beta carotene supplies in squash increase over time as they sit in storage. So save a few for a post-holiday immune fortification feast.
Holiday Immune Food #3: Garlic
What feast is complete without a liberal dose of garlic? And certainly, this spicy bulb is an immune powerhouse. When volunteers took a garlic supplement daily for 3 months, they experienced significantly fewer colds and spent significantly less time being sick than the placebo group.
There's a trick to using garlic to stay healthy, however. Garlic is really only effective when its unique sulfur compound, called allicin, starts to decompose. To get the decomposed allicin in your system, make sure you chop up your garlic and then wait for 10 minutes before cooking with it or mixing it with acids. This way you can be sure to get garlic's full fortifying
Holiday Immune Food #4: Oats
Okay, oatmeal isn't really something you think about eating when you're decking the halls. Especially when you've got all those holiday treats like sugar plums dancing around. But nonetheless, it's the perfect warming winter breakfast. And not just because it's hot . . .
Oats are high in beta glucans. Beta glucans are special carbohydrates that have been shown to help with immunity.
So if you've been traipsing from party to party, break it up
Holiday Immune Food #5: Chlorella
Chlorella alga is not your traditional holiday food, mind you, although it is a festive green color. But there's a reason I advocate chlorella so much, especially during the holidays. Chlorella . . .
-Gives you more
-Boosts your immune system on many fronts.
-Is a rich source of defense fortifying
And best of all - not only is chlorella outstanding nutrition for your immune health - it's easy. You don't have to bake or baste it. All you have to do is take a small handful of tablets in the morning . . . And oh yeah, and did I mention chlorella is sugar-free?
So enjoy the holidays . . . Enjoy the feasting . . . by using these tips for smart immune-boosting holiday eating, you can make sure you don't miss any of the joy and comfort of the season.
About Dr. Michael E. Rosenbaum, MD
Dr. Rosenbaum is a 35-year veteran and widely recognized pioneer in the field of nutritional medicine, alternative
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