We as a culture have become used to popping antibiotics with the first signs of a cold, especially during the winter. Not only does this add to the epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, but antibiotics don’t kill viruses anyway — they kill bacterial infections, so taking them for viral ills like colds and flu is truly a waste, and a potentially life-threatening one at that.

So, instead of popping pills, incorporate some of these foods into your diet. You can minimize the need for antibiotics by lacing your diet with foods that naturally have antibiotic properties. Doing so will not only boost overall health but will also help strengthen immunity, balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut (where 70% of your immune system is), and give you a better shot at fighting off superbugs should they come knocking.

Here are some delicious foods and spices that are easy to work into your diet:

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods deliver plenty of health-boosting protection to help make you more resilient and better able to repel viral and bacterial pathogens. When you eat fermented foods, you’re fortifying your gut with probiotics— those good bacteria that boost the health of the belly, protecting it against the organisms that can make you sick. They help balance gut bacteria and stomach acids, release enzymes to ease and improve digestion, and make it easier for your body to extract and absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat.

Stalks and Stems

These underrated but valuable tough parts of your veggies (which we too often discard) play an important role in gut health. They give your good bacteria something, namely indigestible plant fibers to feast on and are therefore called prebiotics. Think of these prebiotics as the fertilizer that enables your gut garden to thrive. They nourish the good bacteria already living in the gut and encourage their growth. And there are even studies suggesting that prebiotics have a positive impact on taming stress and anxiety level. Talk about a mind-body super meal.

Medicinal mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms have been used traditionally for thousands of years to promote well-being and longevity. But they also help to strengthen the immune system, lower inflammation, prevent disease, and give you more energy. My four favorite mushrooms for immune support are Turkey Tail, Reishi, Cordyceps and Chaga. If you’re looking to get the most out of your medicinal mushrooms, your best bet may be to eat a few types of them together or find a supplement that combines a few of these mushrooms in one formula, as they can have a synergistic effect when combined.

Turmeric

Turmeric is probably my favorite spice because it has so many beneficial effects. It contains curcumin, which is best known for it’s anti-inflammatory effects, but it also has powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-tumor properties. In short, turmeric is rather versatile and fights for your health on multiple levels. You can sprinkle it on salads, eggs, mix it into soups, smoothies, hot and cold beverages. And if you are not a fan of it in your food, it’s widely available in supplement form now. Just remember to take it with fat for better absorption.

Ginger

Fresh raw ginger is another good-for-you food that has an antibiotic effect on food-borne pathogens. While not a cure-all, some fresh ginger eaten before meals can offer an extra layer of protection from food-borne illnesses like salmonella and listeria. That can be a lifesaver, particularly when traveling and eating questionable or unusual foods, or dealing with indigestion.

Garlic

Raw garlic is a powerful, pungent, and delicious medicinal food with known antiviral, antifungal and antibiotic properties that have helped mankind fend off flu and cold viruses for thousands of years. It can be chopped, crushed or sliced, but to get the best of what garlic has to offer, crush a few cloves and let them sit out for 10 to 15 minutes to aid the release of additional health-boosting chemical compounds.

Extra-virgin Coconut Oil

A tasty antimicrobial and antifungal food, extra-virgin coconut oil (EVCO) contains the all-powerful lauric acid. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which helps smack down certain types of viruses and pathogenic bacteria. Try adding EVCO to smoothies for antimicrobial effects and delicious tropical flavor. Always buy organic and unprocessed versions to avoid chemical solvents, preservatives, and additives.

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