Take a deeeeeep breath
It’s easy to take respiration for granted—after all, the process just happens without us having to think about it. But researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that healthy people who completed an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation and learned to pay attention to their breathing patterns produced significantly more antibodies in response to a flu vaccine than a control group. Wanna try it yourself? For at least 20 minutes each day, sit quietly and concentrate on slowing your inhale-exhale cycle. Repeat the process anytime you’re feeling distracted or stressed.
Taste the rainbow
Forget Skittles—think oranges, berries and spinach. Color equals antioxidants, which wipe out disease-causing free radicals. Aim for six to eight servings daily, plus a cup of cruciferous green veggies at least three times a week, says Michelle Babb, R.D., a nutritionist in Seattle.
Dial down the sugar
You certainly don’t have to deny your sweet tooth entirely, but it’s a good idea to cut back on foods and drinks that list sugar, cane juice or sucrose in the first three ingredients. Each of those cloying substances dampens the effectiveness of your white blood cells, making it harder for your body to fight off invaders. Instead, opt for nibbles that have been enhanced with agave nectar, fruit juice or honey.
Embrace garlIc breath
Vampire jokes aside, the onion cousin does a lot of good when it comes to warding off evil (microbes, that is). One or two cloves of garlic a day is enough to provide antibacterial advantages, says Lise Alschuler, N.D., fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. You can also take a garlic extract supplement, such as EuroPharma’s GarliMed (visit europharmausa.com for store locations), which contains allicin and the other potent antimicrobial compounds minus the odor.
Drink more tea
Even if you’re a Starbucks Gold Card–carrying member of Team Coffee, consider sipping two to four cups of black, green, oolong and pekoe brew every once in a while. Research suggests that L-theanine, a compound found in those four varieties, may help T cells defend against invading bacteria. Plus, you’ll get a boost of amino acids, antioxidants and dietary phenols, which inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in your gut. Take it plain (without milk or sugar) to get the biggest benefits.