Need a pick-me-up for your immune system?

Chris Kilham, the Medicine Hunter, offered his suggestions for natural foods, which help ward off illness during the winter.  Check them out below.

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Acai

Acai, a purple palm fruit, grows in the Amazon and contains powerful antioxidants called anthocynanins.

“The purple of it is what makes it so special,” Kilham said.  “Purple antioxidants are the most powerful ones in nature.”

Anthocyanins are protective in the body, helping to reduce the premature aging of cells. Additionally, they also possess anti-inflammatory activity.

Kilham said the best way to add acai to your diet is to eat it in its natural form, rather than taking it as a pill.

“Drink acai smoothies, enjoy acai sorbet, and incorporate acai into your diet the way you would strawberries or peaches,” he said.

Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is a traditional plant from the forests of South America and may be the next big diet breakthrough, holding important chemical keys to weight loss and a lean physique, according to Kilham.

The plant contains 250 known natural compounds, including alkaloids caffeine, theophylline and theobromine. These agents promote central nervous stimulation and act as diuretics, causing the body to shed water.

Additionally, Yerba Mate is rich in a group of compounds called chlorogenic acids, which help to suppress appetite, regulate metabolism and inhibit fat production. In other words, this is a plant ideal for dieters, Kilham said.

Mangosteen

Mangosteen is a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia that not only boosts the immune system, but also has been shown to fight cancer.

“Mangosteen has made a lot of news in the past few years,” Kilham said. “It has good antioxidants and a group of compounds called xanthones. There’s some science that xanthones possess anti-cancer activity, which is always a good sign.”

This fruit has been used in Asian medicine for many years, and studies suggest it may also help with joint flexibility and even “mental support.”

All of these foods work well mixed together in smoothies or other recipes, Kilham said.  For example, a traditional Brazilian breakfast bowl combines granola, acai and bananas for a powerful start to your day.  In addition, a hot drink that combines green tea, ginger and echinacea can be a “Mike Tyson right hook to your cold,” he said.