When given the opportunity, the human body has the amazing capacity to prevent many diseases and illnesses, including the common cold and flu. When we provide our immune system with the necessary tools to fight bacteria and viruses, lasting health will be the natural outcome.

One of the most common reasons for immune deficiency is malnourishment, which stems from not eating a balanced diet, and can therefore affect anyone.  Diet is one of the most important factors in strengthening our immune system and, among most Westerners, an overabundance of sugar is the number one enemy. The average American consumes about 22.2 teaspoons of added sugars per day[1]. This much excessive sugar suppresses the immune system by inhibiting the ability of white blood cells to overcome bacterial and viral invaders. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrates that the amount of sugarin two sweetened beverages lowers immune response by 50 percent for up to five hours after drinking or eating.

In order to maintain a well-balanced, healthy immune system, it is important to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and grains. The eight most important immune-boosting substances found in whole foods and vitamin supplements are Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, bioflavonoid, carotenoids, selenium, omega 3 fatty acids and zinc.

A delicious way to get these nutrients in our diet, and some of the best immune boosting foods to eat during cold and flu season, are citrus fruits, seeds, grains, sprouts, carrots, garlic, almonds, lima beans, flax seed oil and broccoli. Juicing together three carrots, an apple, an orange and half a beet root is arefreshing way to enhance your immune system and a great way to start the day.

Herbal help can be found by taking a daily dose of Echinacea, which is known to strengthen the immune system. Other herbs which may help are chamomile, Siberian ginseng, goldenseal, stinging nettle, rosehip, rosemary and peppermint. Several of these herbs are used to help the body cope with stress, which is also known to greatly suppress the immune system.

The Rambam’s emphasis on proper nutrition, exercise, and emotional balance prove even today to be the foundation of holistic health and the crucial ingredients of a well-balanced immune system.

[1]According to the 2001–04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.