Let's eat! Fall foods to boost immunity and squash flu bugs

Food is fuel for your body, so feed it well. There are plenty of fall foods at farmers...

Food is fuel for your body, so feed it well. There are plenty of fall foods at farmers markets in Atlanta to ramp up your immunity for the upcoming flu and cold season. Not sure what to grab next time you gaze over tables of fresh produce? Put these in your shopping basket!

Tomatoes: This plump, juicy fruit is packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that helps white blood cells fight off the flu and cold bug, according to Women's Health magazine.

If you're tired of adding tomatoes to salads and sandwiches, get creative. Make your own homemade pasta or pizza sauce and freeze it for use throughout the winter. Or, use a dehydrator. Pulverize dried tomato slices in a food processor and store in a jar. Use the tomato powder as a base for soup or thickener for sauces, such as homemade enchilada sauce.

Garlic: Add extra seasoning to vegetables, meats, soups and even bread by including garlic. This fall, bulb is plentiful at supermarkets and filled with immune-boosting antioxidants.

Peel and chop fresh garlic. If you have a bumper crop of homegrown garlic, make homemade salad dressing with sweet balsamic vinegar, olive oil and chopped garlic. Or, rub a fresh clove on the surface of crusty toasted bread for a true Italian side dish. Garlic also pairs well with steamed vegetables. Add diced garlic to broccoli or potatoes as they steam to infuse the spicy flavor.

Hot peppers: From jalapeos to habaneros, stock up on the best spicy peppers of the South. The capsaicin in these hot vegetables can prevent illness by increasing antibodies in your system.

Try adding a dash of hot sauce to the top of a baked chicken breast or into your favorite soups. Stir diced hot peppers into refried beans to give homemade burritos extra flavor. Or, add a few drops of hot sauce to a steak marinade before the meat goes on the grill.

Apples: As the air gets cooler, apples become plentiful and inexpensive. Apples help balance the good bacteria in our digestive tracts, which can speed up the healing process during flu and cold season, according to the World's Healthiest Foods website.

To get the most nutrition from apples, eat them whole. Apple juice and applesauce have been processed, which reduces the nutrient value. Instead, add a chopped apple to the top of a salad or slice the fruit thin to add to a peanut butter sandwich.

Sweet potatoes: Swap out white potatoes for sweet potatoes packed with vitamin A and C. These colorful potatoes are also rich in illness-preventing antioxidants. Make them mashed, fried or into french fries for a delicious side dish.

If you have a stuffy nose, chronic cough, scratchy throat and fever, it's time to see a doctor in Atlanta. After getting a diagnosis, ask which foods you should be munching on to feel better more quickly.

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