If you seem to catch every cold that crosses your path, first make sure you have the basics down pat: Wash your hands frequently, get plenty of zzz’s, stay active, and eat a nutritious diet. Adding mushrooms, but not just any mushrooms, to your weekly chicken soup may also help keep out viral invaders! Shiitake and maitake mushrooms, prized in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for their health-promoting properties, contain compounds that fight viruses and strengthen your immune system. These friendly fungi are available in fresh or dried form in many grocery stores and Asian markets. (Maitake sometimes go by the name “hen of the woods.”) Use them as you would ordinary button mushrooms — in soups, stir-fries, risottos and scrambles — but be sure to cook them to get the benefits. Also, while preliminary studies suggest that maitake may offer some protection against the flu, it’s no substitute for a flu shot.
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